Major players in the world of business mourn the death of financier Jerome Kohlberg, who died at his home earlier this month at the age of 90.
On a professional level, Kohlberg was known for many things. Perhaps one of the largest contributions he made to his field was his part in jump-starting the private equity industry through the foundation of the firm, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. LP. Now referred to as KKR, Kohlberg started the private equity firm in 1976 with his former Bear Stearns colleagues Henry Kravis and George R. Roberts. Many consider Kravis and Roberts to be protégées of Kohlberg, who mentored both of them at Bear Stearns.
Although Kohlberg eventually left the firm due to professional differences, his forward-thinking approach to finance would forever leave its mark on the private equity industry. Reports Michael J. de la Merced, “Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company became a major force that set the tone for the buyout industry.” He also describes Kohlberg as “a veteran financier who pioneered the $2.6 trillion leveraged-buyout industry but later rejected its hunger for huge and aggressive deals,” which really speaks volumes about the integrity and genuine approach to finance that Kohlberg possessed.
Since the news of his passing surfaced, many of Kohlberg’s former colleagues and business partners have issued heartfelt statements and condolences to his family. His former partners at KKR were in this camp; Roberts called him “a man of integrity and moral courage,” and Kravis said that he “was a real visionary, having played an important role in developing the private-equity model in the 1960s.” Both men agreed that Kohlberg was a true mentor to both of them.
Since his passing, many businesspeople have commented that the late Kohlberg was not only a pioneer in his industry, but that he was remarkably generous with his finances and time. He is survived by his wife Nancy as well as four children, twelve grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.