One justification of public private partnerships (PPP) is the alleged benefit they offer in terms of through-life management (TLM). Aiming at an evaluation of this claim, the dominant reasoning connecting PPPs and TLM is first defined: In creating a single point of responsibility and a long temporal involvement, the PPP model provides an effective incentive to implement TLM. This reasoning is first evaluated through prior large scale studies and through two case studies undertaken by the authors. No substantial evidence of TLM benefits is found. To identify the causes for this gap between intention and achievement, a critical review of the PPP literature supported by insights from management and organization theory is undertaken. Four problems in the reasoning are found to explain the gap: fragmentation is factually prevailing; not all parties in PPPs intend to have a long term commitment to the project; there may be competing incentives for some parties; and the effort to achieve the change and learning necessary for TLM may be missing. It is concluded that for the TLM benefits to be achieved, the PPP model has to be redesigned to secure incentivisation towards TLM and to incorporate TLM mechanisms at the level of the production system.