Have you ever wondered how venture capital funds can optimize their investments to deliver the best returns for their investors?

One way is by implementing strategies that increase the odds of generating outsized returns, such as recycling management fees.

In this post, we will explore the concept of recycling management fees, its benefits, and how VCs can adapt this strategy for maximum impact.

Management Fees

Most venture capital funds charge an annual management fee, calculated as a percentage of the capital commitments by the limited partners ("LPs"). The standard management fee in VC is 2% annually, paid quarterly.

As most of the VC's investment activity occurs during the investment period, the management fee is usually reduced in later years. For instance, it may drop by 0.5% for periods after the investment period or be measured as 2% of the invested capital that has not been returned to the LPs. Typically, this results in about 15% of LP capital contributions going toward management fees.

Management fees are ordinarily paid to a management company, a separate but affiliated entity responsible for managing the fund's investments, as compensation for its services.  An investment advisor agreement governs the fund’s relationship with the management company in a typical fund structure.

The management company can use the management fees to operate the fund and to cover the costs and expenses associated with its services (e.g., compensating employees, travel expenses, and other day-to-day expenses).

Since management fees must be returned to LPs before the general partner ("GP") receives any carry, paying management fees is essentially an interest-free loan to the GP.

Like fund expenses, management fees reduce the overall cash available to be deployed into investments.

Instead of retaining the management fees, the limited partnership agreement (”LPA”) may allow the GP to put that capital to work by deploying it into fund investments—a concept known as management fee recycling.

Management Fee Recycling

Management fee recycling allows the GP to maximize the amount of capital deployed, thereby increasing the odds of generating outsized returns.

Remember, the goal for a GP is to generate profit quickly to earn carry, and the more profitable the fund, the more carry to which the GP is entitled.

Benefits of management fee recycling include:

  • Increased total amount invested, leading to higher potential returns
  • More efficient use of committed capital
  • Enhanced fund performance for both the GP and LPs

To illustrate the benefits of management fee recycling, let's consider Junto Ventures, a $50 million fund with a 2% management fee and a 20% carry. Over the fund's life, the management fees account for about 15% or $7.5 million of the capital. This leaves $42.5 million to invest in portfolio companies.

Now let's compare the return on invested capital in two situations: (1) without management fee recycling and (2) with management fee recycling, assuming a 10-year net return multiple of 3x the fund (and, for example, assuming no fund expenses).

Without Management Fee Recycling

If Junto Ventures does not recycle management fees, it only has $42.5 million to invest and would generate a return of $127.5 million.

With Management Fee Recycling

By recycling management fees, Junto Ventures can invest $50 million and generate a return of $150 million, increasing its return by $22.5 million ($150 million - $127.5 million).

Below is a table summarizing the returns for larger funds, both with and without management fee recycling, and the percentage increase in fund returns when management fee recycling is used compared to when it is not:

Fund Size Investable Capital Without Recycling 3x Return Without Recycling Investable Capital With Recycling 3x Return With Management Fee Recycling Percentage Increase in Returns
$50M $42.5M $127.5M $50M $150M 17.6%
$100M $85M $255M $100M $300M 17.6%
$150M $127.5M $382.5M $150M $450M 17.6%

Management Fee Recycling's Impact on Carry

To illustrate the percentage return related to the GP's carry, let's look back at our $50 million fund example with and without management fee recycling (assuming a 3x net return).

Without Management Fee Recycling

Total returns: $127.5 million

LP contributions to be returned: $50 million

Profits: $77.5 million (Total returns - LP capital contributions)

GP carry: 20% of profits = 20% x $77.5 million = $15.5 million

With Management Fee Recycling

Total returns: $150 million

LP contributions to be returned: $50 million

Profits: $100 million (Total returns - LP capital contributions)

GP carry: 20% of profits = 20% x $100 million = $20 million

For more information on the numbers validating the use of management fee recycling, check out Brad Feld's piece on the subject.

When considering implementing management fee recycling, VCs must disclose this strategy to their LPs or run the risk of violating securities laws. Generally, this is often handled in the LPA and summary of terms.  

Dispelling Common Misconceptions

There are several misconceptions surrounding management fee recycling, which can be confusing:

  1. Recycling does not necessarily reduce the VCs; it merely reallocates proceeds to new investments, and assuming those investments are successful, the VC can recapture this income (and hopefully, then some).
  2. Early exits are not the sole trigger for recycling; funds may plan for recycling and deploy more capital in earlier periods, knowing they will recycle later.
  3. Management fee recycling for closed-end funds differs from evergreen funds, which typically recycle a much higher percentage of original committed capital over the fund's lifetime.

By understanding the nature of management fee recycling and its potential benefits, GPs can make more informed decisions about their investment strategies.


Management fee recycling is a powerful investment strategy that can lead to increased returns, better fund performance, and more efficient use of committed capital, making it an essential consideration for any venture capital fund looking to maximize its potential.

Fund managers must stay ahead of the curve as the venture capital industry evolves and explore innovative strategies to maximize returns.  Management fee recycling is one approach that has proven to deliver significant benefits for both GPs and LPs.

By understanding its intricacies and incorporating it into their investment strategies, venture capital funds can drive growth, achieve better fund performance, and enhance value for their LPs.

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Disclaimer: While I am a lawyer who enjoys operating outside the traditional lawyer and law firm “box,” I am not your lawyer.  Nothing in this post should be construed as legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.  The material published above is only intended for informational, educational, and entertainment purposes.  Please seek the advice of counsel, and do not apply any of the generalized material above to your facts or circumstances without speaking to an attorney.

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