The Big Deals Wheel Again

The $30 billion takeover of HCA marks the rise of private-equity firms--and a new buyout wave

Toys "R" Us. Dunkin' Donuts. Univision. Hertz. Those are names of well-known American companies. Bain. Carlyle. Texas Pacific. KKR. Those are names of the lesser-known outfits that bought them in the past year and a half. If you thought the New York Stock Exchange was the place to invest, think again.

Private-equity firms pumped up with vast amounts of money are snatching public companies in an unprecedented buyout wave. In an updated, renamed version of the leveraged buyout, or LBO, private-equity firms acquire undervalued companies, load them with debt, overhaul operations and then return them to the stock exchanges whence they...

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