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KKR looks to future without Kravis, Roberts at helm

KKR is the latest private equity firm to promote younger executives in preparation for succession

Melissa Mittelman & Devin Banerjee | Reuters 

Henry Kravis,  Co-founder, KKR
Henry Kravis, Co-founder, KKR

KKR & Co, the storied buyout firm named for its founders, is preparing for a day when those leaders are no longer at the helm.

The firm on Monday elevated and Joe Bae, two veteran executives in their 40s, to the newly formed roles of co-presidents and co-chief operating officers, responsible for day-to-day operations of KKR. The pair also will join KKR’s board of directors. Cousins Henry Kravis and George Roberts, the co-founders who helped turn leveraged buyouts into the industry it is today, will remain co-chief executive officers and co-chairmen, the New York-based firm said in a statement.

Amid the moves, KKR said Alex Navab, its head of private equity in the Americas and one of the most senior dealmakers in the industry, decided to leave.

“Today’s announcement is about the future and ensuring we have the right team and leadership structure to serve our clients and partners for decades to come,” said Kravis and Roberts, who are both 73. “Having joined the firm together over 20 years ago, Joe and Scott have a strong foundation of trust, professional respect and personal friendship that is critical for success.”

KKR — formed in 1976 by the cousins and Jerry Kohlberg, who left in 1987 and died at age 90 in 2015 — is the latest private equity firm to promote younger executives in preparation for succession. While Blackstone Group LP hasn’t shaken up its c-suite since co-founder and Senior Chairman Pete Peterson retired in 2008, it has bolstered its board in recent years with younger dealmakers Jon Gray and Bennett Goodman.

Carlyle Group LP, like KKR, uses a co-CEO model, and in 2011 named Glenn Youngkin as chief operating officer. Youngkin, now 50, added the title president in 2014. Washington-based Carlyle also hired Kewsong Lee from Warburg Pincus in 2013 to be deputy chief investment officer for private equity, and Lee has since added other roles within the alternative-asset manager.

TPG, the buyout firm founded by David Bonderman and Jim Coulter, brought in former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive Jon Winkelried in 2015 to be co-CEO alongside Coulter, 57. Bonderman, 74, now serves as chairman.

In their new roles, Nuttall and Bae will help manage a firm that oversees $138 billion in private equity, infrastructure, real estate, and also provides capital markets services. KKR said Bae will focus on its private equity businesses across corporate, energy, infrastructure and real estate.

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