Kravis Brought KKR and Private Equity Into the Mainstream

Henry Kravis
Henry Kravis

What happens when private equity goes public?

Henry Kravis, co-founder of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, has seen the industry that he pioneered in the 1970s evolve to manage some $2.4 trillion.

His firm, KKR, has developed far beyond traditional private equity. It is now a large investment firm with diversified businesses that includes capital markets and offices around the globe.

It now manages businesses that generate more than $200 billion annually, has more than $62 billion under management and employs nearly 1 million people.

It’s a long way from when Kravis founded the company with his cousin George Roberts in 1976. Back then, the business was known as “bootstrapping,” long before it became “leveraged buyout” in the 1980s, and morphed into the more genteel named “private equity” in the 1990s.

Now KKR and its rivals, which for years preached the benefits of private, long-term capital, are publically traded companies.

But the transition is not without challenges.

As the industry that Kravis built is in the public spotlight now that former Massacusetts governor Mitt Romney , the founder of rival Bain Capital, is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee , it is facing a crossroads about both its image and role in the economy .

And with so many of the industry’s investors — pension funds and other institutional investors — confronting their own fiscal crises, Kravis will offer his perspective on the looming troubles facing the nation and perhaps offer some solutions Wednesday at "Delivering Alpha," the second-annual CNBC-Institutional Investor conference.