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KKR Tops Private-Equity Deal Makers in 2011 With Samson Purchase

KKR & Co., the private-equity company run by Henry Kravis and George Roberts, was the most active buyout firm last year, followed by Bain Capital LLC, Apax Partners LP, Blackstone Group LP and Carlyle Group.

KKR invested $18.8 billion and was involved in 44 private-equity deals, London-based researcher Preqin Ltd. said in a research report today. By comparison, Boston-based Bain deployed $15.3 billion across 33 transactions in 2011, including the October takeover of Tokyo restaurant operator Skylark Co. for $3.4 billion.

KKR executed the biggest private-equity deal of 2011 when it agreed to buy closely held Samson Investment Co., the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based oil and gas producer, for $7.2 billion. The acquisition was the New York-based firm’s largest since it bought the U.S. Foodservice unit of Royal Ahold NV for $7.1 billion in 2007.

The volume of private-equity deals last year increased 29 percent from 2010 to $448 billion as access to credit continued to improve following the financial crisis, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. This year, the industry is defending itself from attacks by rivals of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who say the former Bain Capital chief executive officer enriched himself at the cost of corporations and their employees while running the firm from 1984 to 1999.

Apax, based in London, invested $13.5 billion in 26 deals last year, and New York-based Blackstone deployed $11.7 billion across 39 deals, Preqin said. Carlyle, the Washington-based firm preparing to go public this year, invested $10.6 billion in 47 deals.

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