General Atlantic

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General Atlantic Partners
General Atlantic logo.gif
Founded 1980
Headquarters Greenwich, Connecticut, USA
Key People Steven Denning, chairman; Bill Ford, CEO

General Atlantic is a US-based private equity firm focused on financial services, media, communications and healthcare.

It has a high profile in the exchange industry, with a portfolio including investments in NYSE Euronext, the New York Mercantile Exchange, the National Stock Exchange of India and a proposed purchase of shares in the planned initial public offering of the Brazilian Mercantile & Futures Exchange. Bill Ford, CEO, is a board member of NYSE Euronext and the Nymex.


The firm was co-founded in 1980 by Steve Denning as a family office investment for Charles Feeney, founder of the Duty Free International retail chain, and other wealthy investors. Denning, a former McKinsey & Co consultant, initially focused on the real estate, energy and information technology sectors. The property and oil and gas arms were spun off, and the group expanded from IT into other growth sectors, establishing its first overseas office in London in 1998. It relies on "limited" partners - usually wealthy families - rather than general rounds of fundraising.

General Atlantic has $15bn in funds under management as of November 2007 and a portfolio value of around $8bn in more than 50 companies, split evenly between the US and other countries. The firm invests across the life cycle of its holdings, typically in 8-12 companies a year with tranches ranging from $50m to $500m. Bill Ford, a former Morgan Stanley executive, joined in 1991, became president in 2005 before being appointed as CEO in January 2007.

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Exchange Investments[edit]

The firm’s first foray into exchanges was a $125m investment in Archipelago Holdings, the Chicago-based electronic platform which later merged with the NYSE Group. The investment was announced in November 2003[1].

General Atlantic agreed to acquire a 10 per cent stake in the New York Mercantile Exchange for $135m in September 2006, though the deal was not ratified amid shareholder opposition until March 2007, with the price raised to $170m. The firm did not participate in the November IPO because of a lock-up agreement[2].

The firm’s focus on India saw it acquire a 5 per cent stake in the National Stock Exchange of India in January 2007, with NYSE Euronext, Goldman Sachs and an affiliate of Softbank taking stakes in a deal valuing the exchange at $2,3bn. [3].

In September 2007, it agreed to pay R$1bn for a 10 per cent stake in the Brazilian Mercantile & Futures Exchange as part of the Latin American’s group’s planned IPO, slated for late 2007. The deal includes a two-year lock-up on the stock. [4].


  1. Press Release. General Atlantic.
  2. Nymex poised for IPO. Financial Times.
  3. NYSE and Goldman invest in the NSEI. International Herald Tribune.
  4. Press Release. Paul, Weiss.

Private equity outsider that’s in-step with Wall Street. Financial Times.

Driven by Ford. Private Equity International.