Henry Kravis, a co-founder of KKR, is one of the most admired and feared Wall Street financiers. Thanks to his notoriously risky and expensive buyouts, he’s known as a ruthless businessman but also a man with a sixth sense for investment and the courage to do what others don’t.
Although not all of his bold business strategies turned out the way he hoped for, Henry Kravis was always able to overcome the struggles of the high financial world. Even now, in times of inflation, his net worth rapidly grows, and his businesses thrive.
Let’s take a closer look at Henry Kravis’ background and past accomplishments to learn more about this legendary man.
Henry Kravis’ Bio Facts
|Full Name: Kevin Audette Plank|
|Birth Date: January 6, 1944|
|Birth Place: Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.|
|Nick Name: Barbarian|
|Siblings: George R. Kravis|
|Children: Harrison (b. 1972-1992), Robert (b. 1973), and Kimberly (b. 1975)|
|Partner / Spouse: Hedi Shulman (until 1980), Carolyne Roehm (1985 – 1993), Marie-Josée Drouin (since 1994)|
|Profession: Investor, financier|
|Salary: $1 billion annually|
|Net Worth: $7.7 billion|
|Social Media: LinkedIn: @Henry-Kravis, Twitter: @HenryRKravis|
|Companies Associated With: Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co L.P. (KKR), RJR Nabisco|
|Last Updated: June 2022|
Henry Kravis’ Key Facts Summary
- His father succeeded in the oil industry and collaborated with Joseph P. Kennedy.
- Henry graduated from Columbia Business School in 1969 with MBA in business.
- He co-founded Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) in 1976.
- In 1988, KKR, under his lead, handled the world’s most expensive buyout of RJR Nabisco at $31.4 billion.
- A 1993 Hollywood movie, Barbarians at the Gate, dramatized this story.
- Donald Trump considered him for the role of Treasury Secretary during his presidency.
- He donated $125 million to Columbia University Business School, his alma mater.
- He received the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2019.
- Henry Kravis’ net worth is $7.7 billion (as of 2022).
- He was married three times and had three kids. His eldest son died in a car accident.
- KKR currently boasts a net worth of $30.25 billion.
Henry Kravis’ Birthplace and Early Life
Henry Roberts Kravis was born on January 6, 1944, into a well-to-do Jewish family in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His mother was Bessie Kravis (née Roberts), and his father was Raymond F. Kravis, a prosperous oil engineer and a close business partner of Joseph P. Kennedy.
Kravis first went to Eaglebrook School and later studied at the Loomis Chaffee High School. He was a focused and ambitious student, participating in a student government and, during his senior year, even elected as a student council’s vice president.
After finishing his high school studies, Henry went to Claremont McKenna College and majored in economics. Again, he was very active in student organizational structures, serving as the class’ secretary-treasurer.
After finishing his Bachelor’s at CMC, Henry started working and gaining his first professional experience. Nevertheless, he returned to the university and completed his studies at the Columbia Business School in 1969, when he received an MBA.
Henry Kravis’ Early Career and Business Success
Right after graduating from CMC, Henry Kravis got his first financial-sector job in Madison Funds. Although he was still very young and inexperienced, he enjoyed complete trust from his employer and had the opportunity to prove himself early on.
One of his first solo contracts involved a company providing transportation of explosives. Since this was in the Vietnam War era, it turned out very well. As a result, Henry was entrusted with negotiating with many powerful clients, including Roy Disney and others.
Soon, when Madison Funds expanded its portfolio of services with buyouts, Henry Kravis started doing what would soon make him famous. (See our Tom Gores Bio and learn more about another famous buyout entrepreneur).
At first, Henry Kravis had no idea how to handle the purchase of a company. He simply did the best he could, treating firms like the stocks he was used to buying and selling on a daily basis.
Then, when he was looking for the right niche to focus on while acquiring a chain of interacting companies, he drew inspiration from his father and chose the oil industry. His guts were right, and his investments turned out great, providing him with self-confidence and know-how.
Soon, Henry united with cousin George R. Roberts, also a promising young financier, and joined Bear Stearns, a New York-based investment bank (one of the companies infamously involved in the 2008 financial crisis alongside JPMorgan Chase and others (see our J.P. Morgan Bio).
At just 30, both Kravis and Roberts became partners in the bank alongside Jerome Kohlberg, Jr., a finance manager. The trio completed many impressive acquisitions during the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Stern Metals, Eagle Motors, Incom, Cobblers Industries, and Boren Clay.
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co L.P.
In 1976, Henry Kravis, George R. Roberts, and Jerome Kohlberg left Bear Stearns and formed their own company, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, investing $120,000 of their private funds.
Thanks to their contacts and reputation, they soon attracted many other investors, including Henry Lee Hillman, the Griffith family, and so on. The company grew quickly, gaining notoriety for its aggressive and courageous approach and great results.
In 1987, Jerome Kohlberg, Jr. resigned from his post, and the two cousins kept managing KKR on their own. Then they stumbled upon the opportunity that would make them legendary.
In 1988, KKR pulled off the famous buyout of RJR Nabisco, an American conglomerate selling food and tobacco products. At $31.4 billion, it was the most expensive commercial enterprise buyout in history, and KKR’s bold and fearless approach was unseen.
The leverage acquisition tactics they applied were so risky and exceptional that investigative reporters Bryan Burrough a John Helyarin wrote a book about it. Director Glenn Jordan later dramatized it in the film Barbarians at the Gate. Jonathan Pryce portrayed Kravis.
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co L.P. was incorporated in 2007. The company still provides financial services, assets management, and investments in private equity, energy, real estate, credit systems, infrastructures, and hedge funds worldwide.
The list of its notable acquisitions and investments includes Hospital Corporation of America, TXU, Beatrice Foods, Toys “R” Us, Regal Entertainment Group, Lyft, Axel Springer, and Duracell.
In 2021, Henry Kravis and George R. Roberts stepped down as co-CEOs but remained involved in KKR as co-chairmen. As of June 2022, the company has 3238 employees. Its net worth is currently around $30.25 billion.
Henry Kravis’ YouTube Videos
In this 1991 speech, Henry Kravis discusses his journey to success, from his first experiences in investment to running one of the largest American acquisition companies.
In this 2009 interview, Henry Kravis and George R. Roberts discuss KKR, one of the world’s most successful and wealthiest investment companies they founded together in 1976.
Henry Kravis explains in this 2017 interview his experience and the whole evolution of the financial world in the last decades.
Henry Kravis’ Business Failures
Although Henry Kravis often resorted to risky business revenue models, he was usually able to avoid a complete failure or at least significantly diminish its consequences. But sometimes, even the most remarkable success can turn out to be a failure over time.
RJR Nabisco losses
The acquisition of RJR Nabisco made Henry famous, and his company, KKR, one of the most feared institutions operating on Wall Street. Nevertheless, this buyout was not as profitable as it might have seen from a distance.
In fact, in 1995, KKR got rid of its last holdings in RJR Nabisco, admitting publicly after years of struggling that the investment resulted in losses.
Kravis never seemed o be bitter about this outcome, though. According to his typical approach to life and business, one must understand that something will always go wrong. As this exceptional case study proved, the trick is not to bet everything on one horse.
Henry Kravis’ Family
Henry was married three times. First time to interior designer Helene-Diane Shulman Kravis Ruger. The pair divorced in 1980, and in 1997 (aged 49), Hedi, as first Mrs. Kravis was known, died of cancer.
The pair had three children: Harrison (b. 1972), Robert (b. 1973), and Kimberly (b. 1975). In 1991, their first-born son Harrison died in a tragic car accident at 19.
In 1985, Henry Kravis married another New York-based designer Carolyne Roehm. The marriage, however, lasted only until 1993. Since 1994, Kravis has been married to a Canadian T.V. personality and economist, Marie-Josée Drouin.
Henry Kravis’ Net Worth and Career Earnings
According to Forbes, Henry Kravis’ net worth is currently around $7.7 billion. That makes him the 290th wealthiest person in the world as of June 2022.
Moreover, it looks like his wealth has sharply risen during the past couple of years, not showing any signs of stagnation despite the ongoing pandemics and inflation.
Based on the annual statistics, Kevin Kravis currently earns more than $1 billion yearly.
Henry Kravis’ Real Estate Holdings
Kravis does not focus on investment in real estate professionally, although his company made some noteworthy transactions in this field in the past. Nevertheless, he owns several quite remarkable properties for personal use.
Park Avenue Penthouse
Henry Kravis usually spends his days in New York City, where his business and personal interests are mainly concentrated. It is a place he also officially calls his home.
Since 1995, the financier has been a proud owner of the 26-room 625 Park Avenue penthouse with a remarkable history. It once was home to beauty tycoon Helena Rubinstein, filled with bohemian decorations, African sculptures, and surrealistic paintings by Dalí or Picasso.
Since then, the apartment (considered one of the best in the city) went through several bold renovations. Although Henry never published actual pictures of the place, it is believed to be decorated in 18th-century style and full of classy modern art.
Henry Kravis allegedly also owns another property in New York City, a residential house.
Palm Beach Seasonal Residence
When the cold weather drives wealthy New York residents out of the city, Henry Kravis and his wife head to the Palm Beach residence they call their second home.
The majestic white mansion surrounded by fresh greenery and meandering pathways stands in one of the most prominent areas in Florida. Kravis is, in fact, one of 25 billionaires who own properties in the neighborhood.
Among others, the list includes Donald Trump, who is reportedly very fond of Henry Kravis, considering him even for the position of Treasury Secretary under his administration.
Since Henry tries to keep his private life out of sight, not much is known about the interior design or worth of his Palm Springs residence. The financier is also believed to own an additional seafront plot nearby.
Henry Kravis also used to own a lavish Westlands ranch in Colorado. A 4,600-acre property lies about 20 miles southeast of the town of Meeker, an area beloved by the rich and famous due to its tranquility, serene nature, and excellent conditions for hunting.
The main building on the estate is a 19,000-square feet lodge with large fireplaces and historic artifacts imported from Europe. There is a wine cellar, pool, theater, sauna, and several generously decorated guest lodges scattered around the property.
Kravis bought the ranch for about $5.5 million in 1991. In 2019, he listed the property on the market for $46 million. It was bought by Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City.
Henry Kravis Quotes
“A real entrepreneur is somebody who has no safety net underneath them.”
“Whales who come up and spout off get harpooned.”
“I’ve been in a hurry all my life. I’ve been in a hurry to succeed, and in a hurry to prove myself.”
“If you have something at risk, you think differently.”
“You only have one thing to sell in life, and that’s yourself.”
“I want people who will stand up to me. People who are not afraid to say exactly what’s on their minds, even though that’s probably not what I want to hear. That’s what I want.”
“If you don’t have integrity, you have nothing. You can’t buy it.”
“Any fool can buy a company; just pay enough.”
“I love the creativity. I love the ability to create a capital structure that is appropriate for a company, no matter what field it happens to be in.”
“Our job really begins the day we buy the company, and we start working with the management, we start working with where this company is headed.”
Question: What Is Henry Kravis’ Investment in Space Flight?
Answer: Henry Kravis is among several major investors who raised funds in 2022 for the development of a stratospheric passenger balloon by Space Perspective. The balloon would carry eight passengers and simulate spaceflight at an altitude of 30 kilometers.
Question: What Organizations Does Henry Kravis Support?
Answer: Besides being a co-chairman in KKR he co-founded in 1976, Kravis also serves as trustee, director, or chairman in a few other institutions, including Claremont McKenna College and Columbia Business School, his alma maters, The Business Council, or Mount Sinai Hospital.
Question: Is Barbarians at the Gate a true story about Henry Kravis?
Answer: Yes, the 1993 movie with James Garner and Jonathan Pryce in leading roles revolves around the real story of the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco by Henry Kravis and his partner and cousin George R. Roberts.
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