Buyers ready with capital and lenders willing to lend made 2014 the year of the exit, and the Riverside Co. leveraged the favorable conditions to complete an impressive tally of 19 portfolio-company sales. The venerable private equity firm racked up some considerable wins, including the largest return since its founding in 1988.

"We realized $2.5 billion in value and were able to distribute $1 billion to our investors, which is great," says co-CEO Stewart Kohl (pictured, right). "It's been a great time to exit, and our decision to exit so many companies was quite conscious. We started preparing for this in 2013."

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