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You won’t find our dealmakers of the year wearing suspenders and shoulder pads, but otherwise, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d drifted back to the ’80s. Not since the buyout of RJR Nabisco in 1988 have private equity funds roiled the capital markets the way they did last year.

Seeking ever-bigger opportunities, private equity shops funded acquisitions by forming clubs to pool their resources (and in the process, to pool their law firms). When clubs became too cumbersome, private equity firms sought more predictable cash flows and cheaper funding in the public equities and debt markets. Buyout targets became increasingly exotic as well: a broadcasting syndicate and a casino company — both heavily regulated — and a mammoth real estate investment trust governed by complex and specialized tax laws.

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