Private Equity and Venture Capital Glossary

Later stage

The state of a company that has proven its concept, achieved significant revenues compared to its competition, and is approaching cash flow break even or positive net income. Typically, a later stage company is about 6 to 12 months away from a liquidity event such as an IPO or buyout. The rate of return for venture capitalists that invest in later stage, less risky ventures is lower than in earlier stage ventures.

Lead investor

The venture capital investor that makes the largest investment in a financing round and manages the documentation and closing of that round. The lead investor sets the price per share of the financing round, thereby determining the valuation of the company.

Letter of intent

A document confirming the intent of a buyer and seller in a transaction or the intent of an investor to participate in a round of financing for a company. By signing this document, the subject company agrees to begin the legal and due diligence process prior to the closing of the transaction.


The use of debt to acquire assets, build operations and increase revenues. By using debt, a company is attempting to achieve results faster than if it only used its cash available from pre-leverage operations. The risk is that the increase in assets and revenues does not generate sufficient net income and cash flow to pay the interest costs of the debt.

Leveraged buyout (LBO)

The purchase of a company or a business unit of a company by an outside investor using mostly borrowed capital.

Leveraged recapitalization

The reorganization of a company’s capital structure resulting in more debt added to the balance sheet. Private equity funds can recapitalize a portfolio company and then direct the company to issue a one-time dividend to equity investors. This is often done when the company is performing well financially and the debt markets are expanding.

Leverage ratios

Measurements of a company’s debt as a multiple of cash flow. Typical leverage ratios include Total Debt / EBITDA, Total Debt / (EBITDA minus Capital Expenditures), and Senior Debt / EBITDA.


A contract in which a patent owner grants to a company the right to make, use or sell an invention under certain circumstances and for compensation.

Limited liability company (LLC)

An ownership structure designed to limit the founders’ losses to the amount of their investment. An LLC does not pay taxes, rather its owners pay taxes on their proportion of the LLC profits at their individual tax rates.

Limited partner (LP)

An investor in a limited partnership. The general partner is liable for the actions of the partnership while the limited partners are generally protected from legal actions and any losses beyond their original investment. The limited partner receives income, capital gains and tax benefits.

Limited partnership

A legal entity composed of a general partner and various limited partners. The general partner manages the investments and is liable for the actions of the partnership while the limited partners are generally protected from legal actions and any losses beyond their original investment. The general partner receives a management fee and a percentage of profits (see Carried interest), while the limited partners receive income, capital gains and tax benefits.


The sale of a company. This may occur in the context of an acquisition by a larger company or in the context of selling off all assets prior to cessation of operations (Chapter 7 bankruptcy). In a liquidation, the claims of secured and unsecured creditors, bondholders and preferred stockholders take precedence over common stockholders.

Liquidation preference

The contractual right of an investor to priority in receiving the proceeds from the liquidation of a company. For example, a venture capital investor with a “2x liquidation preference” has the right to receive two times its original investment upon liquidation.

Liquidity discount

A decrease in the value of a private company compared to the value of a similar but publicly traded company. Since an investor in a private company cannot readily sell his or her investment, the shares in the private company must be valued less than a comparable public company.

Liquidity event

A transaction whereby owners of a significant portion of the shares of a private company sell their shares in exchange for cash or shares in another, usually larger company. For example, an IPO is a liquidity event.

Lock-up agreement

Investors, management and employees often agree not to sell their shares for a specific time period after an IPO, usually 6 to 12 months. By avoiding large sales of its stock, the company has time to build interest among potential buyers of its shares.

London Interbank Offered Rate (L.I.B.O.R.)

The average rate charged by large banks in London for loans to each other. LIBOR is a relatively volatile rate and is typically quoted in maturities of one month, three months, six months and one year.