Off-duty: Vista’s David Breach on Taekwondo, dude ranches and singing karaoke

Breach tells us about his love for chicken fajitas and wake surfing as well as his notoriety at Vista for singing songs like 'Starting Over'.

David Breach, Vista Equity Partners

Buyouts’ Off-duty provides a snapshot of top investors, including a few details about what they do when not chasing deals.

In his youth, David Breach, president and COO of Vista Equity Partners, was passionate about Taekwondo. He taught martial arts classes, imparting to his students not just techniques but a self-improvement philosophy. The experience, he told Buyouts, proved key to “success later in life.”

Breach went on to become a corporate lawyer, joining Kirkland & Ellis in 2000, where he was groomed for top leadership. He also gained exposure to private equity, counting Vista among his clients. It was founder and CEO Robert Smith who urged him to change careers and become Vista’s COO in 2014 to institutionalize the firm and give it staying power.

That is precisely what Breach did. In 2021, when he was appointed president, an LP told Private Equity International that hiring Breach was “the beginning of modern Vista.”

Because higher learning “changed the trajectory of my life,” Breach said, he devotes time and money to related causes. Examples include the University of Michigan’s David A and Emily A Breach Law School Scholarship Fund and his work on the San Francisco Advisory Board for Sponsors for Educational Opportunity.

Where is your hometown?

The great city of Burlington, Ontario.

If you weren’t in PE, what job would you like to have?

A martial arts instructor. I was an instructor when I was younger, and I always found the benefits of helping others learn the mental and physical aspects of the practice extremely rewarding.

How do you relax when you’re not working?

Wake surfing. You can catch me on Lake Austin with my family whenever I can.

What book are you reading right now?

The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer, by Dr Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr Elissa Epel.

What is your favorite song, album, performer or music genre?

I am notorious around Vista for my love of karaoke. My current go-to song is “Starting Over” by Chris Stapleton.

What is your favorite meal, recipe, cocktail or bottle of wine?

If it is on the menu, I order chicken fajitas.

What is your favorite place for a vacation, sanctuary or a place to explore? 

My family does an annual trip to a dude ranch in Montana. It is completely unplugged and rustic. Going on long hikes through the wilderness is a great way to rejuvenate, both physically and mentally.

Who in your career do you regard as a mentor?

My father. To me, he embodied success by showing me it could be achieved through hard work, the right attitude and doing right by your people. He had to drop out of school to work from a very young age, starting as a butcher and ultimately rising to become a regional vice-president of A&P Supermarkets.

Professionally, what was your toughest moment?

The decision to leave my legal career and pivot to private equity. I loved what I did and the clients that I supported, but the opportunity to join Vista and help the firm grow and achieve its potential was too attractive to pass up.

What was your most rewarding moment?

Most recently, Vista surpassing $100 billion in assets under management. We had about $13 billion in AUM when I joined the firm, and I recall aspiring alongside Robert F Smith, our founder and CEO, to surpass $50 billion in AUM by 2025. To be where we are today feels incredibly gratifying and I truly believe the best is yet to come.

What PE buzz words or jargon do you hate most?

I’ve never read a pitch deck or teaser for a business that wasn’t “market leading.” Buzzwords and hyperbole should never be a substitute for straightforward communication and critical thinking.

What advice would you give a young person interested in a PE career?

Private equity is intense. But I harken to what my father taught me: put in the work, there will be long hours; soak in wisdom from your more experienced colleagues, they are all around you; it’s okay to make mistakes, but own and learn from them. Also, be grateful. It’s one of life’s greatest happiness hacks.

What word or phrase best describes you?