Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL) could be called the teddy bear at the gate. The company uses a mix of debt, funds from institutional investors, and its own money to buy companies. Unlike the fearsome leveraged buyout outfits of the 1980s, THL eschews the axe for the handshake; it builds up its stake, works with management, then ideally sells the revamped acquisitions or takes them public. The firm has invested some $20 billion since its 1974 founding. It targets companies in the business and information services, consumer products, financial services, health care, industrial, and media sectors. Major holdings include ARAMARK, Clear Channel, Dunkin Brands, MoneyGram, Univision, and Warner Chilcott.