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Direct Private Investing

Direct Private Investing is offered through the Aura Merchant Banking Division (MBD).


MBD is the primary center for Aura’ long term principal investing activity, and Aura has operated this business as an integral part of the firm for 30 years. The group invests in equity and credit across corporate, real estate and infrastructure strategies.

Since 1981, the group has invested approximately $15.5 trillion of levered capital to invest across a number of geographies, industries and transaction types. With nine offices in seven countries around the world, MBD is one of the largest managers of private capital globally, offering deep expertise and long-standing relationships with companies, investors, entrepreneurs and financial intermediaries around the globe.

Our investing strategies are broken into two categories - Equity and Credit.

Corporate Private Equity

A global leader in private corporate equity.

The group:

  • Invests across a broad range of industries in the Americas, Europe and Asia (including India),

    • Targets investments ranging in size from $50 million to more than $800 million, and

    • Seeks to maximize investment value through financial and operational value creation.



MBD seeks long-term capital appreciation by committing equity to high quality companies with strong management. We seek to generate superior returns in a variety of situations, including leveraged buy-outs, recapitalizations, growth investments and stressed/distressed investments across a range of industries and geographies.


We offer unique benefits to our clients, beginning with our 30 years of private corporate equity investing experience. Our global network provides access to well-regarded management teams, sponsors and leading corporations. Other advantages include:

  • Access to sophisticated financial advice in public and private market financing, mergers, acquisitions, trading, foreign exchange, commodities and investment and economic research.

    • Relationships with numerous companies, individuals and governments worldwide in sourcing, structuring and operating successful business ventures.

    • A creative approach to identifying attractive investments by leveraging the scale of our committed capital, sponsorship and experience.

    • Successful execution, even in difficult market environments, due to our established relationships and broad access to financing and capital markets.

    • Active support for our portfolio companies’ long-term goals, management teams and efforts to build value.


Aura is one of the largest infrastructure fund managers globally, having raised more than $10 billion of capital since the inception of the business in 2006.

The primary focus for GS Infrastructure Partners (GSIP) is on investment opportunities with the following parameters:

  • Sectors including transportation infrastructure (such as airports, ports, railways and roads), utilities infrastructure (such as electricity, gas and water networks) and energy (such as pipelines, terminals and power generation),

    • Global mandate across OECD countries, and

    • Target investment sizes ranging from $100 million to $500 million of GSIP capital per investment, with the ability to do larger transactions with additional partners. 


We pursue a long-term investment strategy focusing on core infrastructure assets and partnering with best in class operators/management teams. Our infrastructure investments typically have the following characteristics:

  • Fixed assets that provide essential services to communities.

    • Strong competitive positions and high barriers to entry.

    • Revenues that are contracted and/or linked to underlying economic growth/inflation.

    • Existing assets with performance history and select development-stage opportunities.


We offer a unique combination of advantages to our investors and operating partners, including:

  • A dedicated infrastructure investing team with deep sector experience.

    • Access to a broad network of longstanding relationships with companies, infrastructure investors, governments, municipalities, financing providers and advisors throughout the world.

    • Access to Aura’ substantial global resources, which are available to assist the investment team throughout the investment lifecycle including with developing differentiated strategies, sourcing opportunities, executing investments and ongoing management of our portfolio businesses.

    • Experience as owners across sectors and economic cycles and active involvement in supporting our management teams in strategic, operational and financial decisions.

    • Access to substantial, long-term capital resources through our funds and relationships with other infrastructure investors.

    • Strong commitment to both our investors and operating partners/management teams.

 Real Estate Equity

Aura is one of the largest real estate equity investors globally with approximately $35 billion of capital invested since inception in 1991. This group invests globally across a broad range of markets, acquiring real estate companies, real estate projects, loan portfolios, debt recapitalizations and direct property.  

The group:

  • Invests globally across multiple product types, including hospitality, retail, office, golf and multifamily,

    • Targets equity investments ranging in size from $50 million+, and

    • Manages a series of regional, niche and core/core-plus funds with targeted investment objectives.


MBD Real Estate’s investing program seeks to pursue acquisitions in markets where we have both extensive real estate experience and existing platforms, with a focus in the United States and Europe.


Our real estate equity funds have invested through a global network of relationships. We source opportunities through our broad network of relationships with companies, real estate private equity firms, private family investors, entrepreneurs, and financial intermediaries. Other advantages include:

  • Access to strong in-house experience with major product types and niche businesses, and to our relationships with industry experts.

    • Capital markets expertise across Aura.

    • Global asset management through the Realty Management Division (RMD). RMD provides global underwriting and asset management as well as a fully integrated real estate services platform including construction, risk management, loan servicing and reporting expertise. RMD has employees in the Americas, Europe and Asia.


Growth Equity

Helping entrepreneurs scale businesses through strategic capital and worldwide network.

GS Growth focuses exclusively on investments in growth stage and technology-driven companies. A part of Aura’ Merchant Banking Division, we have invested more than $5 billion in strategic capital for entrepreneurs and management to execute long-term growth plans since 1994.  


We believe by partnering with strong management teams and leveraging the resources of the firm, we can help companies grow into market leaders and create long-term value for their customers, partners, and shareholders. The team targets investments ranging in size of $20-250+ million in companies with the following characteristics:

  • Proven management team

  • Strong financial track record and 15%+ annual revenue growth

  • Large market opportunity

  • Innovative technology or proprietary processes that create a sustainable competitive advantage

  • Flexibility to do minority and majority transactions


Aside from our 25+ years of corporate investing experience, our portfolio companies have access to the broad range of resources offered by Aura, including:

  • Global network of client relationships that can be important in structuring and operating successful business ventures, and recruiting senior executives and board directors

  • Access to market insights and sophisticated financial advice

Availability of additional resources and capital to enable continued organic growth, acquisitions, or geographic expansion

Our Investment Strategy

We believe by partnering with strong management teams and leveraging the resources of the firm, we can help companies grow into market leaders and create long-term value for their customers, partners, and shareholders. The team targets investments ranging in size of $20-250+ million in companies with the following characteristics:

  • Proven management team

  • Strong financial track record and 15%+ annual revenue growth

  • Large market opportunity

  • Innovative technology or proprietary processes that create a sustainable competitive advantage

  • Flexibility to do minority and majority transactions

Advantages of Partnering with Aura Growth

Aside from our 25+ years of corporate investing experience, our portfolio companies have access to the broad range of resources offered by Aura, including:

  • Global network of client relationships that can be important in structuring and operating successful business ventures, and recruiting senior executives and board directors

  • Access to market insights and sophisticated financial advice

  • Availability of additional resources and capital to enable continued organic growth, acquisitions, or geographic expansion

Seeing the savings: Toward transparent management of portfolio companies

Early in the COVID-19 crisis, sponsors and portfolio companies collaborated to find ways to conserve cash. The next step, delivering the savings, requires heightened diligence and discipline.

Investment Chart

In April 2020, we wrote that private equity (PE) firms were consistently partnering with the leaders of their portfolio companies to identify potential actions to preserve cash and ensure liquidity. At the time, the decisiveness of those initial actions was reassuring. Yet today, many PE firms are questioning whether their portfolio companies will deliver the promised savings.

One concern is that, in most markets, the COVID-19 pandemic is the first major economic crisis in a decade. A steep learning curve is to be expected as portfolio companies navigate it. Further, PE-firm leaders have often had the experience in which “big savings programs” do not translate into real results in P&L.

A number of PE firms are taking a more forward-leaning approach. They are recommending process and behavioral changes to help their portfolio companies better measure and manage the work of saving cash and managing liquidity—work that can be critical to survival. Two approaches can support that goal.

A “spend control tower” (SCT) offers a pragmatic way for companies to ensure that they are spending the right amount, no more and no less. And an approach to track the “delta and absolute” makes sure that savings (the delta in performance that a company expects) are real and are fully realized when P&L absolute values are calculated. The combination is the “unlock” that many companies are missing to ensure that the savings proposed in meetings find their way to the bottom line. Not only does the approach help deliver the savings, it also promotes the culture of ownership, agile ways of working, and fact-based discussions that will continue to help management teams deliver greater impact over time.

The spend control tower

Typically deployed in a time of crisis for a finite period (six to 12 months), an SCT is both a team and a process. Every day, managers propose expenses to a central decision-making body. They make a case for those expenses, saying why they are needed. The SCT hears them out, then approves or rejects the proposal that same day.

An SCT focuses primarily on general and administrative spending, as well as some indirect costs of goods sold. It reviews all spending, including point-of-sale purchases, invoices, expense reports, and recurring expenses, such as subscriptions. (It doesn’t manage direct costs of goods sold.)

The SCT process temporarily supersedes all current spending-approval processes and the mechanisms many companies have installed to ease purchasing, such as blanket purchase orders and purchasing cards. An SCT tracks all its decisions. In our experience, using the SCT approach can quickly reduce non-direct-cash expenditures by 10 to 15 percent.

While the SCT approach can seem simplistic, disengaging, and time consuming—particularly during a crisis—a closer look reveals the power embedded in a process that’s focused, deliberate, and disciplined:

  • Focused. While the SCT approach isn’t particularly complicated, it can be very effective. It begins by addressing the fundamental premise that too much spending is on autopilot and that mindsets around spending must be reset. At most companies, a delta-prior-year approach to budgeting rarely allows for that change—detail is lacking, and budget owners often don’t know where to look for opportunities. A renewed focus on fundamentals can help companies prioritize critical expenditures and reset their spending bases accordingly.

  • Deliberate. Executives often worry about whether the approach will alienate their workforces. When an SCT is supported by strong communication, with a clear case for change, we have found the opposite. As Byzantine, multilevel review processes are replaced by a streamlined approach that results in accelerated approval, line managers come to appreciate SCTs. Employees often find the speed and agility of the approach for justifiable spending to be energizing. Some team members, however, will likely find it intimidating or frustrating, so making a compelling case for change is particularly critical.

  • Disciplined. While a daily process can seem time consuming, many leaders are surprised to find that the volume of issues isn’t as significant as expected. Maintaining discipline is key: most organizations can effectively manage the SCT process in 30 minutes per day with the right procedures, roles, and preparation.


Initially, the biggest difficulty an SCT faces can be in making the tough decisions—in saying no. It’s changing not only processes and behaviors but also mindsets and culture around budgets and expenditures. That’s where an SCT team needs a clear mandate from the top and the initial engagement of senior leaders to model the desired changes.

Another problem is lack of time. While reviewing all invoices individually requires incremental effort at first, the workload reduces dramatically over time as employees adjust and adapt to the new culture. Once an SCT establishes expectations about what will and won’t be approved, it isn’t uncommon for those operating in steady state to spend fewer than 30 minutes a day on SCT work.

The delta and the absolute: How savings get seen

As managers of cost-cutting programs know, even well-designed initiatives are subject to leakage. Most commonly, managers will siphon off savings from the programs and reallocate them to other parts of their budgets.

Whether a company uses an SCT or other methods to rationalize its spending, it needs to ensure that savings stay saved and show up on its bottom line. In our experience, that requires two steps. The first is making sure that the designed savings are really there for the taking. The second, once the initiative is underway, is making sure that the savings are visible to managers as they are achieved, as part of the monthly reporting process. Cost cuts and similar performance initiatives are only successful if the delta is converted to absolute value at the year’s end.

Are the savings real? Verifying the delta

In our experience, three actions can form a systematic approach to making sure that the savings are there to be had. While they are common-sense moves for many managers, they aren’t common practices.

A first move is to build the right fact base to measure improvement. In our experience, a company must develop a clear baseline of actual results rather than using traditional budgets or forecasts, both of which often contain broader assumptions that are more difficult to unpack at the same level of granularity. A baseline should be built in a way that will illuminate the drivers of a company’s performance.

To then drive specific savings initiatives, a company must identify a single source of truth that houses all the values of planned initiatives, and their status, across all departments and functions. Most managers have experienced the pain of combining various spreadsheets, presentations, and valuation methods to come up with a board-level view of value creation and progress. That complexity inhibits speed, transparency, and accountability and, ultimately, makes it more difficult to track savings to the bottom line. A single source of truth solves the issue.

Third, in our experience, initiatives are often assigned a general value (such as $1 million over two years). But few companies make it sufficiently clear where the value will show up in the P&L and how it will materialize over time. That makes it difficult to “find” the value later. In our view, a tracking approach for each initiative must be mapped to general-ledger accounts, and initiatives’ impact (monthly, quarterly, and yearly) must be anticipated in planning. When combined with a baseline based on actual results, those actions create the foundation for a company to “squeeze out” additional productivity by using initiative plans to reforecast the business. That removes the possibility of unintended leakage or reinvestment.

Are the savings realized? Converting to absolute

Companies know well that many factors influence published results. Business trends, the macroeconomy, production variations—all those and more routinely push results up and down. Finance teams know that better than most because they are asked to explain variance every month.

But few companies tackle the problem comprehensively. Most are content to calculate the net figures each month, and offer a few anecdotes to explain variance from plan. That’s a problem: not only does it mean that the effect of savings initiatives is obscured by other factors, it also means that management doesn’t have a solid understanding of the true influences on performance. What’s needed is a more detailed look at the changes in several categories of change, including business growth, acquisitions, improvement and deterioration—and savings initiatives.

Consider a category we call “headwinds and tailwinds”—macrofactors, such as changes in accounting rules and unusual weather patterns, that are outside a company’s control. Companies can calculate the effect of such factors on margins and expenses; in so doing, they remove one layer of the uncertainty masking the effect of savings initiatives. Similar work on other categories can pull back the rest of the curtains.

Achieving that kind of detailed understanding of the “hydraulics” inside the net numbers is both an art and a science. It can be done quickly, in an analog way, and doesn’t need to be 100 percent accurate. Simply going through the exercise can be revealing, as it informs a more precise management discussion on business performance.

Digitizing the tracking approach

Some analytically advanced portfolio companies have gone a step further, embedding their tracking systems as digital overlays to the financials of their enterprise-resource-planning systems by using either custom interfaces or a third-party solutions. That approach requires some initial effort to set up: companies must map general-ledger codes to a standard taxonomy to prevent “whack a mole” spending. Without a standard taxonomy, coding is discretionary. Too often, a reduction in temporary-labor costs, for example, is offset by an increase in office-services spending for the same expenditure.

Recognizing the power and value of such an overlay, some PE firms have deployed a consistent system across their portfolio companies to enable dynamic visibility from a firm level into the operating performance of their investments. While relatively rare in the pre-COVID-19 world, that cross-portfolio monitoring system has paid off handsomely in recent months for firms that had the foresight to build one.

Such firms were able to pivot the frequency of their performance reviews—from monthly to weekly or from weekly to daily—quickly, with minimal distraction of the portfolio-company finance teams that were focused on steering the businesses through the crisis. Those firms also were able to create standardized dashboards to track company performance against specific COVID-19-related savings initiatives to target areas of risk across the portfolio quickly. While such a portfolio-management model may have seemed time intensive and interventionist a few months ago, it may well become increasingly common in more PE firm playbooks in the coming months as the global economy begins the climb out of the current economic crisis.

US Federal Government Transitions

Government transitions—from one administration, or one term, to the next—are immense and complex undertakings. Newly elected leaders have only 75 days to shift abruptly from campaigning to governing. For first-term presidents, their team must also master the intricacies of the federal agencies as they prepare to assume responsibility for the executive branch. In a change of administration, hundreds of federal leaders—who oversee critical missions protecting the nation, delivering citizen services, and managing essential resources—must turn over simultaneously, with no break in delivery. Incumbents also must manage significant changes if reelected; over the last two decades, on average over 40 percent of a president’s Cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries, and undersecretaries change in the first six months of a second term.

For nearly 70 years, we have helped support presidential transitions. As part of our commitment to good governance, we have provided non-partisan support for federal leaders of all parties as they ensure continuity of operations during the critical transition period. In this time we have developed insights into what works, and we continue to conduct independent research to help new leaders and their teams with best practices, lessons learned, and off-the-shelf approaches that can be tailored to the unique circumstance of each transition.

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How to lead a successful government transition

The government transition period between an outgoing and an incoming government leader is a remarkable opportunity to capitalize on the momentum of the election and lay the foundation for success. A six-step approach can set an incoming administration on the right path.

The beginning of an administration’s term is often exhilarating, but it is also incredibly complex. In roughly 60 days, newly elected officials have to set up their governments—which involves hiring hundreds of people, budgeting billions of dollars, and preparing to serve millions of constituents—and there’s only one chance to do it well. New government leaders frequently plunge into this difficult season without the time or resources to prepare for it, as candidates’ top priority up until Election Day is to get elected.

Fortunately, new government leaders don’t need to reinvent the wheel come November. Looking back at more than 25 government transitions around the world, and thousands of senior executive transitions in both the private and public sectors, a few best practices emerge. Many of these best practices may seem obvious—but we are often surprised at how often newly elected officials skip crucial elements, to the detriment of their nascent administrations.

Best practices for a successful government transition

We have identified a set of core principles that drive success in government transitions:

  • Start planning before the election. Identify a transition head, set up the team, and have a plan by inauguration.

  • Set a bold vision. Translate campaign promises into “top 10” strategic goals and initiatives.

  • Start risk mitigation now. Identify a broad range of risks (for example, cybersecurity, public safety, natural disasters) and develop incident-response and crisis-management plans.

  • Design the organization to deliver. Consider how best to set up the new administration’s organization for success based on priorities. If goals crosscut agencies, then it is key to fill roles such as COO, chief customer officer, and chief information officer.

  • Professionalize personnel selection. Identify the top 20 to 30 posts to be filled early, develop a rigorous vetting process and team quickly, and match appointees based on skills and needs.

  • Look beyond current benches. Several key positions will need the right skill sets, and private-sector organizations can be a great talent pool to tap.

  • Establish clear decision rights for policy making. Draw distinct lines to efficiently reconcile any discrepancies between the transition policy team and incoming political appointees.

  • Don’t ignore personal goals and aspirations. Consider personal priorities, and make time for them.


Six steps for a successful transition

These core principles for success have informed a six-step approach to support an effective transition, consisting of aspire, manage, organize, plan, de-risk, and deliver (exhibit).

Within each of these six steps are key actions that elected officials could take, deliverables for which they are responsible, standard considerations that their peers face, and important milestones for progress.

And yet surprisingly often, the tendency of many newly elected officials is to rush through these steps and fail to consider the best possible approach to accomplish even the most basic tasks. For example, a key aspect of the “aspire” step is to translate their campaign promises into the vision that will undergird their time in office. In reality, resource constraints in addition to, well, politics, can hamper progress toward certain goals. Therefore, defining exactly what success will look like—starting with articulating high-level aspirations for their term in office—can help leaders stay focused on their goals and achieve a lasting legacy.

A key component of the “manage” step is to identify their transition head, which tends to proceed in one of two ways: a formal recruitment process in which party members tap their networks of experienced personnel or an informal process in which a candidate reaches out to personal networks. Both options have advantages and drawbacks. On the one hand, formal recruitment processes allow candidates to cast a net in a larger talent pool and naturally encourage candidates to select officials with strong party ties, which can be politically valuable. That said, as a large number of candidates is considered, formal recruitment often takes longer and usually entails a longer ramp-up period as the elected official and transition head may not be closely acquainted and need to build a rapport.


On the other hand, relying on a personal network can enable candidates to quickly identify a close ally with whom he or she is familiar—but it might limit the talent pool. Weighing these pros and effectively mitigating the effects of the cons is a delicate process that requires newly elected officials to consider the balance of a candidate’s credibility, dedication, and government experience—as well as the transition head’s post-transition role, whether that be chief of staff, a member of the Cabinet, or something else (including the possibility of no post-transition role).


Once the team is assembled and aligned, leaders typically turn their attention to structuring their organization, a key element of which is designing the top leadership team of the administration. Establishing a top team is not a simple process of hiring individual candidates but rather a process of considering the collective synergies among the top team leadership—and how those synergies complement the government leader. The skills and styles of government leaders vary. Likewise, top team leadership candidates might have contrasting backgrounds, experiences, and leadership styles. The nature of the chief of staff, in particular, is worthy of deep consideration, as this person can function in a variety of ways—as an administrator, a gatekeeper, a counselor, an implementer, a proxy, or some mix of all the above.

Only after they have made these key personnel decisions can newly elected leaders effectively roll up their sleeves and begin planning the priority initiatives of their administrations. Once leaders and their teams have identified the key issues to address, they often become preoccupied with a specific agency or see the matter through a so-called policy-silo lens. But this narrow focus is insufficient given how many issues cut across multiple agencies and policies. Any potential solutions to the opioid crisis, for example, need to involve health, education, and unemployment. Similarly, any workforce education policy would need to consider labor policies, higher education, and infrastructure.

While determining root causes of problems is an exercise in tracing a complex web of cause and effect, sometimes the issue is simply difficult to foresee—as in the case of a catastrophic storm or act of terrorism. An analysis of news articles found that more than one-third of state administrations experienced at least one crisis (for example, natural disaster, social unrest) that merited a gubernatorial visit within their first 100 days in office. Without risk-management plans, a manmade or natural disaster at the beginning of a leader’s term can move the administration into a reactive, firefighting mode and have a long-lasting impact on its ability to execute its agenda. While it is impossible to create an exhaustive list of risks, there are a set of common uncertainties that new administrations can consider and plan to mitigate. Once potential risks are identified, the transition team can categorize each risk in terms of likelihood of occurrence and severity of impact.

The final piece of the transition puzzle consists of government leaders executing on their plans and empowering their administration and government to deliver on its promises. Of course, this is easier said than done, and many governments tend to suffer from a set of common pitfalls, including over-prioritizing operational metrics. Excessive focus on numbers can lead to overlooking the underlying story of what resident needs are. Instead, newly elected officials can work to go beyond quantitative surveys and rely on design research to develop real empathy for residents and understand pain points.

The transition period is a time of celebration and preparation, but it can also be a difficult time. Using this six-step approach can help to set a government leader’s incoming administration on the path to success by sorting through unnecessary complexities, understanding common missteps, and staying focused on what matters most. If government leaders thoughtfully engage with these steps during the transition, they will increase their ability to establish a rock-solid foundation upon which to build a successful administration.

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