Profiles in Business: Henry Kravis

Henry R. Kravis, founding partner of New York-based private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), finished his economics major at Claremont McKenna College in California. After his high school graduation in 1967, Henry Kravis attended Columbia Business School where he earned his MBA (Masters in Business Administration) in 1969. He is regarded as one of the most successful investment bankers in history.

Henry Kravis’s first exposure in the field of business came when he became a staff member of Bear Sterns, together with his cousin George R. Roberts. Henry Kravis and George Roberts were placed under the supervision of Jerome Kohlberg, Jr., the company’s corporate finance manager. In a few years’ time, at the young age of 30 and 31, Henry Kravis and George Roberts became one of the partners at Bear Sterns. They developed a friendship and favorable working relationship with Kohlberg and formed KKR in 1976.

Credited for giving KKR some of its biggest and most significant corporate acquisitions, Henry Kravis’ most successful deal was the 1988 RJR Nabisco buyout which netted $24.88 billion.

Aside from dealing with business matters, Henry Kravis is also involved in several noteworthy charitable causes and is likewise a patron of the arts. In fact, in the New York social circle, Henry Kravis is known as an extremely generous donor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The New York City Investment Fund, of which Henry Kravis is founder and head, is intended to help New York City’s small inner city businesses by creating jobs. Some of his philanthropic activities involve board memberships in the Partnership for New York City, Claremont McKenna College, Mt. Sinai Hospital, and Columbia Graduate School of Business, among others. Henry Kravis also launched the prestigious Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership to honor the best in leadership in the nonprofit sector.

He is also an avid political activist. Henry Kravis formed the Republican Leadership Council together with Lewis Eisenberg.

Henry Kravis’ involvement in business, politics, and philanthropy is a perfect embodiment of a quote he once said: “If you build that foundation, both the moral and the ethical foundation, as well as the business foundation, and the experience foundation, then the building won’t crumble.”

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