Fortune's exclusive look at the country's most powerful buyout firms.
(left to right) Carlyle co-founders David M. Rubenstein, William E. Conway, Jr., and Daniel A. D'Aniello
2008 Rank: 1
2007 Rank: 3
Recent buyout fundraising: $39 billion
With 1,000-plus employees, 34 offices spread across every continent but Antarctica, and $81.1 billion in assets under management, this alternative-asset supermarket based in Washington, D.C., offers 60 funds.
The firm, which prides itself on running as smoothly as a presidential motorcade, did get into its share of fender-benders this year: Carlyle Capital, a mortgage-backed securities fund, defaulted on $16.6 billion in debt and went belly-up in March. Nevertheless, the firm's other investments soared in 2006 and 2007: Its LBO and growth capital funds distributed $14 billion to investors--$4.5 billion was investor equity, $9.5 billion was profit.
And foreign investors keep the money coming in: The government of Abu Dhabi bought a 7.5% stake in the general partnership last September for $1.35 billion. (By comparison, Calpers bought a 5.5% stake in 2000 for a mere $175 million.)
Headwind issue: No longer pilloried for having the bin Ladens as investors, Carlyle has become a whipping boy for Big Labor. The Service Employees International Union, claiming services at nursing-home chain Manor Care would decline after it became part of the Carlyle portfolio, pickets its events.
Worth noting: Because co-founder David Rubenstein doesn't eat meat, vegetarian sushi is served at every Carlyle event, from investor conferences to employee retreats.
NEXT: The Blackstone Group
Source: Rankings are based on a firm's most recently raised buyout fund(s). Fortune looked at data from Capital IQ, institutional investors, and the companies themselves to determine the size of the most recently raised buyout funds. For some firms that means a fund that was raised in 2007; for others it might be 2006. Whatever the date, the most recent fund was the one we counted. In the case of companies that raise multiple funds simultaneously as opposed to raising a single fund at a time, we chose to count only those private equity funds that were not raised in public markets and that were earmarked for buyouts (as opposed to investments in debt, venture capital, or other ventures).