Kewsong Lee just took full control of Carlyle. 20 insiders reveal how he’s already put his mark on the $221 billion private-equity giant — and what it means for the future of the firm.

Kewsong Lee

Kewsong Lee became sole CEO of The Carlyle Group last week after two-and-a-half years running the $221 billion private-equity firm with Glenn Youngkin.
Business Insider spoke with 20 people who have worked with him, and they painted a picture of a change agent who is direct, energetic, and unafraid to challenge conventional thinking. 
Over his seven years at Carlyle, he’s wound down underperforming strategies, revamped pay for some executives, and built up new businesses for the publicly traded private-equity firm.

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Kewsong Lee knows what it’s like to lead during a crisis.

The 54-year-old private-equity executive who just became sole CEO at The Carlyle Group saw the ground fall out beneath one of his largest investments, bond insurer MBIA Inc, during the 2008 meltdown.

And, as people who worked with him attest, he worked closely with MBIA executives to save the company.

“We were all just bailing water, trying to prevent the ship from sinking,” recalls one former member of MBIA leadership.

During weekly board meetings, Lee helped hammer out details to spin off separate parts of its business that were stung badly by the credit meltdown.

The company later faced an onslaught of litigation, but with the help of Marc Kasowitz — the lawyer now known as Donald Trump’s attack dog — they fought the big banks and hedge funds over allegations of fraudulent transactions, reaching a settlement with Bank of America that gave MBIA $1.7 billion.

One executive remembers Lee holding a catered dinner at his home in Larchmont, New York, just after Hurricane Sandy, where he and his lieutenants broke bread and, for a moment, enjoyed the victory. The flooding that had resulted from the hurricane had barely stopped short of Lee’s back door, he recalled.

“The wine was flowing and we thought we had gotten over a big hurdle. But there were other storms to come,” said the person in attendance.

MBIA, today, hasn’t recovered, with its stock price down to $8.02, from $38.19, when Warburg Pincus — the firm where Lee had worked at the time — injected $1 billion into the entity in hopes it would pay off.

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Lee’s resolve as a private-equity executive will serve him well as he mans the helm of Carlyle, a firm managing more than $221 billion in assets that has, like its peers, been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic as the public-health crisis plummets sales of portfolio companies and creates uncertainty in others.

Read more: Big investors like Apollo and Carlyle are clamoring for a piece of the $30 trillion ESG space. We spoke to 15 insiders about how they’re ramping up hires, raising money, and striking data-driven deals.

Conversations with 20 executives who have worked with Lee paint a portrait of a dealmaker who is decisive, energetic, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

He’s direct, they say, and doesn’t mind telling people they’re wrong, a quality that doesn’t shine quite as bright within other executives. And, he is often quick to present challenging questions to colleagues, while soliciting the opinions of …read more

Source:: Business Insider – Finance

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