Some of the big dogs in private equity are selling. Good luck to those who stick around. The WSJ reports:

Shares of private-equity firms are soaring, and buyout barons are selling.

Top executives at three publicly traded private-equity firms have sold more than $500 million of their firms’ stock over the past year, according to securities filings.

The most recent sellers are Carlyle Group LP co-founders co-Chief Executive William Conway and Chairman Daniel D’Aniello, who have sold between $39.6 million and $48.9 million of stock apiece, according to a securities filing Thursday. The sale, part of a larger share offering from the Washington firm, marks the first time that any Carlyle employees have reduced stakes in the firm since it went public in May 2012.

The sales follow larger divestments last year by executives at Apollo Global Management LLC. Josh Harris and Marc Rowan together sold about $229 million of stock in the firm they helped Leon Black launch in 1990, according to securities filings.Blackstone Group BX +0.15% LP President Hamilton “Tony” James, meanwhile, sold about $187 million of his stock in 2013 after giving about 900,000 shares to charity in 2012, filings show.

The sales represent the initial wave of top private-equity executives whittling down stakes in their firms, which for most of their existence operated as closely held partnerships. A big reason these firms went public in recent years was to enable their founders and other top executives who had amassed big stakes to cash out of the businesses. While many private partnerships are sold to the next generation of executives, some private-equity firms have become so large that the next tier of firm leaders would be hard pressed to buy out the founders.

Related video: