Henry R. Kravis is a noted American businessman, investor, and philanthropist, best known as the founding partner, co-chairman and co-CEO of the American global investment firm ‘Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.’ Born into a Jewish family, Henry completed his studies with an MBA degree from the ‘Columbia Business School.’ Thereafter he joined ‘Bear Stearns’ along with his first cousin George R. Roberts, and started working under Jerome Kohlberg, Jr. The trio completed some of the initial leveraged buyout transactions at ‘Bear Stearns.’ They later left the firm amidst disagreements and formed ‘Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.’ Over the years, firm has accomplished several transactions that include leveraged buyout of ‘RJR Nabisco’ and the buyout of ‘TXU,’ which is the largest buyout till now. Henry is a supporter of the ‘Republican Party.’ Together with Lewis M. Eisenberg, he has set up the ‘Republican Leadership Council.’ His philanthropic endeavours include presenting and administering the ‘Henry R. Kravis Prize’ in ‘Nonprofit Leadership’ and funding the ‘Henry Kravis Leadership Institute.’
Childhood & Early Life
Henry R. Kravis was born on January 6, 1944, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, US, in a Jewish family to Raymond Kravis and Bessie (née Roberts). His father was a successful Tulsa oil engineer and was once a business partner of Joseph P. Kennedy.
Henry attended ‘Eaglebrook School’ and ‘Loomis Chaffee School.’ He became vice president of the student council during his senior year at ‘Loomis Chaffee School.’
He enrolled at ‘Claremont McKenna College’ (at that time Claremont Men's College) and majored in economics. In college, he was a member of the golf team for 4 years and also associated with ‘Knickerbockers’ student service organization. He became class secretary-treasurer during his sophomore year. He completed his graduation in 1967 and then went on to obtain an MBA degree from ‘Columbia Business School’ in 1969.
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Henry tried his hand at several jobs in the financial sector in New York City, before he joined ‘Bear Stearns’ with his first cousin George R. Roberts. The two worked under Jerome Kohlberg, Jr., the corporate finance manager of the firm. Eventually the two became partners at the firm. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the trio made a series of "bootstrap" investments following which Jerome, Henry, and George made several buyouts. These include ‘Stern Metals’ in 1965, ‘Cobblers Industries’ in 1971, and ‘Incom,’ a division of ‘Rockwood International.’
Disagreements started brewing up between the trio (Henry, George, and Jerome) and ‘Bear Stearns’ by 1976, which resulted in departure of the three from the firm. That year the three went on to form the American global investment firm ‘Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR).’ Henry and George invested $120,000 of their own capital in KKR. The ‘Hillman Family’ and the ‘Griffith family’ were two of the initial investors in the firm.
Jerome left KKR in 1987. The following year, the firm, under the leadership of Henry and George, acquired ‘RJR Nabisco’ at a cost of $31.4 billion. It marked the largest buyout ever at that time. The much publicised event paved way for the 1989 book and the 1993 made-for-TV movie, ‘Barbarians at the Gate.’ Jonathan Pryce portrayed Henry in the film.
Over the years, KKR invested in several other companies. These include ‘Regal Entertainment Group,’ ‘First Data,’ ‘Toys "R" Us,’ ‘Beatrice Foods,’ ‘Hospital Corporation of America’ (HCA) and ‘Safeway.’ KKR took over Duracell in 1988 and made it public in 1989.Their investment in the battery company proved quite profitable. A private-equity acquisition of ‘TXU’ led by KKR in 2007 is considered as the largest buyout till date.
Henry and George made an announcement in July 2017 indicating that Joseph Y. Bae and Scott C. Nuttall would take charge of the company after them.
Political, Philanthropic & Other Engagements
Henry is a supporter of the ‘Republican Party.’ He raised funds and supported President George W. Bush and John McCain. He was a key contributor to the re-election campaign of President George H. W. Bush in 1992. He worked with Lewis M. Eisenberg in setting up the ‘Republican Leadership Council’ in 1997. He also contributed $1 million to the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017.
‘Henry R. Kravis Prize in Nonprofit Leadership’ was established by him and is presented and administered by Henry, his wife, Marie-Josée, and the ‘Claremont McKenna College.’ The award is affiliated with the ‘Henry Kravis Leadership Institute’ in the college. Henry is a trustee of the college and provides funds for the ‘Henry Kravis Leadership Institute,’ which sponsors the college’s leadership studies programs.
He has also donated funds for development of extensive facilities in several schools. These include ‘Kravis Hall’ in ‘The Loomis Chaffee School,’ ‘Kravis Arena’ in ‘Deerfield Academy,’ ‘Kravis Dorm’ in ‘Eaglebrook School,’ and ‘Kravis House’ in ‘Middlesex School.’
He is a patron of New York's public television station, where he earlier served as chairman. He is a board member of the ‘Metropolitan Museum of Art’ and a trustee of the ‘Mount Sinai Medical Center.’ He, along with his wife, Marie-Josée, made a donation of $15 million for funding a professorship and setting up the ‘Center for Cardiovascular Health.’ The chair in human oncology of the cancer treatment and research institute ‘Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City’ is also endowed by the couple.
Henry served as co-chairman of the not-for-profit membership organization ‘Partnership for New York City’ formed by David Rockefeller in 1979. Henry serves as one of the board of directors of the organisation. He formed the non-profit organization ‘New York City Investment Fund’ in pursuit of creating new jobs and businesses in the city.
He presently serves as executive committee chairman of ‘The Business Council,’ ‘Chairman of Sponsors for Educational Opportunity’; a trustee of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York; vice-chairman of Rockefeller University, and co-chairman of the ‘Columbia Business School Board of Overseers.’
Family & Personal Life
Henry has married thrice. His first married Helene Diane "Hedi" Shulman, but the union ended in divorce. Thereafter he got married to a New York designer Carolyne Roehm, and the marriage lasted from 1985 to 1993. He got married for a third time to Canadian businesswoman and philanthropist Marie-Josée Drouin in 1994. His three children - Harrison S. Kravis, Robert R. Kravis, and Kimberly Kravis Schulhof were born through Hedi in 1972, 1973 and 1975 respectively. Harrison died in a car accident in 1991.
Henry has homes in New York City, Sharon (Connecticut), Paris, Meeker (Colorado), Southampton (New York), and Palm Beach (Florida). The latter is his seasonal residence while he generally resides in New York City.