The returns that institutional investors realize from private equity differ dramatically across institutions. Using detailed, hitherto unexplored records, we document large heterogeneity in the performance of investor classes: endowments' annual returns are nearly 21% greater than average. Analysis of reinvestment decisions suggests that endowments (and to a lesser extent, public pensions) are better than other investors at predicting whether follow-on funds will have high returns. The results are not primarily due to endowments' greater access to established funds, since they also hold for young or undersubscribed funds. Our results suggest that investors vary in their sophistication and potentially their investment objectives.
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