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Romney Should Be Proud of Private Equity: Kravis

Private equity kingpin Henry Kravis thinks presidential candidate Mitt Romney doesn't need to apologize for his prominent role in the industry.

Henry Kravis
Henry Kravis

Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, has faced attacks from Democrats, who paint the former head of Bain Capital as a corporate raider who offshored jobs while professing that he can fix the woeful American unemployment situation.

The industry, in fact, has been beneficial to the U.S. economy by fixing ailing companies and making corporate heads more responsible, KKR CEO Kravis told the "Delivering Alpha" conference sponsored by CNBC and Institutional Investor.

"I'm not sure he needs to be defending private equity per se," Kravis told a lunchtime gathering. "Because he comes from Bain and the private equity world he will get a lot of arrows shot at him."

Kravis deflected questions on whether he thinks Romney has done an adequate job fending off the attacks, which he said ignore the history of private equity firms like KKR and Bain.

"In the '70s and '80s, what private equity did is it changed corporate America," he said. "It started holding companies accountable and for the first time managers started thinking like owners." (Correction: An earlier version of this quote was incorrect.)

Throughout his storied career — he helped found KKR in 1976 with his cousin George R. Roberts as well as Jerome Kohlberg Jr. — Kravis too has not always been painted in the most flattering light.

Some have said the ruthless "greed is good" takeover king Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" movies was patterned after Kravis.

Such criticism hasn't stopped him, though he acknowledged that Wall Street in general faces a daunting public relations problem following the financial crisis of 2008.

"Quite frankly the financial community has to improve its image The financial community has to be much more transparent than it is," he said. Kravis added that the way to achieve that is by "not pointing fingers. That's how it's going to get back."