How Alex Navab’s legacy will continue to shape private equity

The former KKR executive’s plans for a new firm serve as a valuable case study for aspiring managers hoping to scale quickly.

Alex Navab, the ex-KKR dealmaker who passed away on Sunday, will continue to shape the private equity industry.

Navab was known to many in – and outside – the asset class, having worked as head of Americas private equity, chairman of the Americas private equity investment committee and chairman of the Americas portfolio management committee during a 25-year stint at KKR.

Navab boasted a prolific track record of around 50 deals from his time at the private equity behemoth, where he also led the creation of a São Paulo office. In 2014, Reuters named him among the potential candidates to replace co-founders Henry Kravis and George Roberts, despite concerns around heart arrythmia.

His passing left Kravis and Roberts “heartbroken”, according to a joint statement. “A longtime member of the KKR family, Alex was an outstanding investor, leader, mentor and a friend to many. His contributions in business and philanthropy over his lifetime will forever remain part of his remarkable legacy.”

The news also prompted social media tributes from Stephen Harper, former prime minister of Canada; Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida; and ex-White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Navab’s most recent project – Navab Capital Partners – could have the most lasting impact on the asset class. He had planned to raise $3 billion for its first private equity fund, which, if successful, would have been the largest debut private equity vehicle raised by an independent firm.

While it is unclear how Navab’s passing might affect these plans, his vision for the firm will remain an important guide for aspiring managers looking to scale quickly.

As sister publication Private Funds CFO noted in May, Navab Capital Partners made clear the importance of recruiting operational executives early, securing backing from a seeding fund and baking philanthropy into the firm’s DNA.

“Philanthropy and social impact are very important to me and therefore to the mission and culture of the firm,” Navab told Private Equity International in May.

“That was one of the things I debated when I was away for a year after leaving KKR. How do I combine philanthropy and investing at the same time?”

Although Navab will not be around to see that dream become a reality, he was a passionate supporter of charity during his post-KKR gardening leave, devoting half of his time to non-profit organisation Robin Hood and other groups aiming to eliminate poverty.

As Youth Inc, a New York charity, noted on Twitter: “Alex’s impact on the lives of NYC kids can hardly be measured and will be long remembered. Youth INC would not be where it is today without Alex. We will miss a staunch advocate for NYC kids, focused philanthropic leader, and a friend.”