Private equity is a type of alternative investment class that involves deploying capital into investments or businesses that are not listed on a public exchange. In practice, private equity is used to invest in private companies, to initiate buyouts or bolster its financial statements, or to invest in privately held assets, such as real estate. Due to the fact that private equity requires placing substantial amounts of cash for long periods of time, investors are usually institutionally backed or have achieved some degree of accreditation.
For investors in operating companies, these long hold periods are due to the considerable amount of time it takes to turnaround a distressed business, or to achieve a liquidity event such as an initial public offering or sale to a public company. In real estate, longer hold periods can be attributed to value-add initiatives, predetermined lock-up periods, as well as the overall illiquidity of real estate investments.