KKR taps former Bush campaign manager as public affairs head

The global buyout firm has hired former Republican party chairman Ken Mehlman for a newly created post, its latest move toward internal institutionalisation before a public float.

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts is the latest buyout firm to bring in-house a regulatory affairs guru with the hire of former Republican party chairman Ken Mehlman. A partner and lobbyist in Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s Washington DC office, Mehlman previously represented KKR.

In his new position as head of global public affairs, Mehlman, who managed President George W. Bush’s successful re-election bid in 2004, will be responsible for improving KKR’s relationships with stakeholders, regulators, non governmental organisations and other third parties, the firm said.

“As we continue to communicate the public benefits of private equity, Ken is a wonderful addition to our executive team, allowing us to expand and institutionalise our outreach to key groups across our portfolio,” KKR-cofounders Henry Kravis and George Roberts said in a statement.

Prior to signing on with Akin Gump, Mehlman was head of the Republican National Committee and held various administrative posts in the Bush White House. He resigned as RNC head in 2006 after the Republican party lost control of both houses of Congress. His party affiliation is in line with the political inclination of Kravis, who currently sits on presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s New York Area fundraising committee.

The addition of Mehlman represents KKR’s continuing efforts to internally conduct some of the advisory services it has traditionally outsourced – a trend that market observers view as an attempt to institutionalise the private equity heavyweight’s internal operations before going public. The firm filed its initial public offering plans in July 2007 but has yet to indicate when – or if – it will float its management company.

Last November, KKR hired long-time external legal counsel David Sorkin to be its first in-house general counsel;  Goldman Sachs alum Robert Gottleib as its chief human resources officer; and former PriceWaterhouseCoopers advisor Edward Brandman as its chief information officer.

Other private equity titans have recently adopted similar institutionalisation measures; in November, the Carlyle Group hired international trade lawyer David Marchick as its in-house regulatory and public affairs expert.

As first reported by PEO, KKR closed a $17.6 billion (€11.2 billion) global buyout fund last month.