PhD Student Directory
Simon Witney

Email: S.R.Witney@lse.ac.uk

Thesis Title: 'Corporate governance in private equity-owned companies'

Supervisors: Dr Carsten Gerner-Beuerle and Professor David Kershaw

Research Interests: Company law, corporate governance, private equity and venture capital

My research

Although not everyone realises it, private equity and venture capital are now well established as a vital part of Europe’s corporate landscape. Many household name companies would not exist today without early stage venture capital backing, and some of Europe’s most important businesses are owned by private equity funds. Boots, Pets at Home, Just Eat, Pret a Manger, Odeon Cinemas, New Look, Wagamama, Poundland, and thousands more businesses that touch our lives every day are owned by private equity funds. In fact, according to industry figures, around 18,000 companies in Europe are private equity owned, and in total they employ around 8 million people.

There is considerable academic research into the performance of these companies, and good evidence that they perform well across a number of metrics. My research will build on that body of research and examine how, in practice, UK private equity backed companies are governed, and the extent to which existing law facilitates – or hampers – such governance.

Existing academic theory would suggest that “one size fits all” governance frameworks are not helpful, and that effective governance mechanisms will be created by sophisticated firms to deal with specific company needs. I will examine the extent to which this is true in practice using empirical data, and measure existing legal rules by their ability to accommodate and encourage the adoption of such bespoke mechanisms.

I expect my research to inform Europe’s critical corporate governance debate. It will be of interest to anyone who wants to better understand which forms of governance – and which company law frameworks – drive companies to create long term sustainable value. That is a subject of acute interest to practitioners, academics, policy-makers, and to society as a whole.

My background

I am a PhD student in the Law Department at LSE, supervised by Professor David Kershaw and Dr Carsten Gerner-Beuerle.

Before joining LSE’s PhD programme I was a partner practising private equity law at King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin. My first degree was in Law at Oxford University, and I have also attained an MPhil in Law from Leicester University and an MBA from INSEAD.

I currently chair the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association’s (BVCA) Legal & Technical Committee, and the European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association’s (EVCA) Tax, Legal and Regulatory Committee.

 

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