KKR founder Jerry Kohlberg dies at age 90

Kohlberg left KKR in 1987 to establish his own firm.

Jerome “Jerry” Kohlberg, a founding partner of leveraged buyout firm KKR, has passed away at age 90, according to reports.

He died on 30 July at his home in Martha's Vineyard, according to a letter from Kohlberg & Co. managing partner Samuel P. Frieder to the firm's LPs, after battling cancer for about two decades.

Kohlberg, who established the PE giant with Henry Kravis and George Roberts in 1976, left the firm in 1987 to found his own firm, Kohlberg & Co.

In George Anders' book Merchants of Debt: KKR and the Mortgaging of American Business, Kohlberg was said to be the “prudent 'senior statesmen' of KKR,” who “didn't get involved in all the details but operated somewhere in the background, applying his expertise and good judgment to difficult issues.”

George Roberts , who co-chairs KKR with Henry Kravis, said: “Jerry was a man of integrity and moral courage. Henry and I are proud that our firm's name is Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. Jerry will be missed and remembered by many.”

Kravis said in a statement that “Jerry was a real visionary, having played an important role in developing the private equity model in the 1960's.”

Before he founded Kohlberg & Co., Kohlberg served as senior partner and a member of the executive committee at Bear, Stearns & Co.

He obtained a BA from Swarthmore College, an MBA from Harvard Business School and master of laws degree from Columbia University. He retired from the PE industry altogether in 1994.

Sheila Blair, a former Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chairwoman and current senior advisor at Pew Charitable Trusts, tweeted that Kohlberg was a “kinder, gentler PE investor. He will be missed.”

“Another financial services titan lost,” Ricky Maloney of Eurex Clearing tweeted. “A real shame.”

In June another LBO financier, JPMorgan Chase then-vice chairman James “Jimmy” Lee, passed away at age 62, as reported by Private Equity International.