America is in the grips of a speculative frenzy. Investment bankers, private investment firms, and even a few dozen recently graduated MBAs labelling themselves “searchers” are calling, emailing, wining, and dining small business owners. Their goal is to translate prosaic small businesses into the poetry of private equity. The great postcrisis private equity gold rush is on, fueled by cheap debt and enthusiastic investors. A lawn care chain might get half a dozen calls and emails a week from business brokers and “searchers.” A regional bank auctioning off a business with $15 million in profits might pitch two hundred prospects, receive fifty letters of intent, and take twelve separate private equity firms to management meetings, ending in a sale price which the majority of bidders considers crazy. And the greatest prize of all—a software company—could sell for many multiples of revenue, regardless of profitability. Les mer her