billionaireBusinessFounders

KKR’s Billionaire Founders Hand Leadership Reins to Joe Bae, Nuttall

(Bloomberg) — Henry Kravis and George Roberts, quintessential dealmakers who have dominated global private equity for almost half a century, are ceding their leadership roles at KKR & Co. to make way for their handpicked successors.

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The billionaire founders of KKR elevated Joe Bae, 49, and Scott Nuttall, 48, to co-chief executive officers, effective immediately, the New York-based firm said in a statement Monday. Kravis, 77, and Roberts, 78, will serve as executive co-chairmen of the board. Along with the changes, KKR said it will move to a one-share, one-vote structure within five years.

“We are proud of what we have built to support companies and serve our clients over the last four and a half decades,” Kravis and Roberts said in the statement.

The reorganization marks the final step in a succession plan initiated four years ago. It’s also one of the most significant generational shifts yet for the industry. Over the last several years, the largest private equity firms, including Carlyle Group Inc., have installed a new generation of younger executives to take over from their wealthy founders.

KKR rose 1.1% at 9:40 a.m. in New York trading. The shares have gained 62% this year through Oct. 8.

“KKR’s one share, one vote restructuring to common shareholder rights next year should allow the company to be included in broader indexes, opening it to more passive ownership,” Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Paul Gulberg and Ethan L. Kaye said Monday.

Of the handover to Bae and Nuttall, “this is something that they are attempting to manage carefully and so far, so good it seems,” Jefferies analyst Gerald O’Hara said Monday, noting that succession planning at KKR’s competitors “clearly had some bumps in the road.”

Bae and Nuttall joined KKR in 1996 and were appointed co-presidents and co-chief operating officers in July 2017 — the first move in the plan devised by Kravis and Roberts, cousins who established the firm with Jerry Kohlberg in 1976. (Kohlberg left in 1987 and died in 2015.)

Kravis and Roberts each have an estimated net worth of about $11 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Separately, KKR on Monday announced several structural and corporate governance changes.

KKR will eliminate its controlling preferred stock class, giving all shares equal voting status. The move will “increase the rights of our common stockholders” and further align the interests of management and investors, the company said.

(Adds share reaction in fifth paragraph, analyst comment in seventh paragraph.)

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