Carried interest is share of any profits that the general partners of private equity and hedge funds receive as compensation, despite not contributing any initial funds. This method of compensation seeks to motivate the general partner (fund manager) to work toward improving the fund's performance.
Investopedia Says... Traditionally, the amount of carried interest comes out to around 20-25% of the fund's annual profit. While all funds tend to have a small management fee, the management fee is meant to only cover the costs of managing the fund, with the exception of compensating the fund manager.
Carried interest is meant to serve as the primary source of income for the general partner. However, the general partner must ensure that all the initial capital that the limited partners contribute is returned along with some previously agreed upon rate of return.