Story of the Year: Navab’s sudden death shocks PE industry

Navab Capital Partners was targeting $3bn for its debut fund and decided to wind down after Alex Navab’s untimely death.

Private Equity International’s story reporting the sudden death of ex-KKR senior dealmaker Alex Navab was one of the year’s most-read stories – testament to how well-known and well-loved Navab was, and just how much his death shocked the private equity community.

Those from across the business, political and philanthropic landscape paid tribute to the man who was plotting to raise the largest debut private equity vehicle by an independent firm while baking philanthropy into his firm’s DNA.

His passing left KKR co-founders Henry Kravis and George 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.”

At the time of his death over the Fourth of July weekend, Navab had just returned from a year-long garden leave and was on the fundraising trail with the debut fund for Navab Capital Partners, which was targeting $3 billion. Goldman Sachs’ Petershill programme was a strategic partner.

Navab had recruited Carlyle’s Ram Jagannath, Warburg Pincus’ Annette Rodriguez and Baupost Group’s Robert Berlin as partners, and added ex-KKR senior executives to the team.

The firm intended to target investments in healthcare, media, technology, consumer and financial services sectors, in the $3 billion and $5 billion-$10 billion range.

“Who is doing those deals that the mega-funds used to do until a decade ago? There are still a lot of companies that need capital or should be purchased in that zone,” Navab told PEI in an interview in May.

Navab’s vision for his new firm included developing a great culture and integrating philanthropy into the firm’s strategy.

“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?”

The firm set up a foundation that was set to be supported by the profits of the firm and its investment professionals. The team as also intending to lend their time and expertise to causes they wanted to support, Navab told us.

Without Navab, the new firm decided to wind down. Jaganath joined Blackstone and Navab’s chief of staff Bhavna Vashisht Katkar joined BC Partners. Meanwhile, according to their updated LinkedIn profiles, Jawad Hasan has joined TPG Capital to invest in healthcare, Sunny Patel has joined HighPost Capital as managing director and Christian Diez has joined Two Sigma’s private equity arm Sightway Capital as head of finance and fund operations. Rodriguez and Berlin’s LinkedIn profiles have not yet been updated.

Navab’s last role at KKR, where he worked for 24 years, was as head of Americas private equity. He left the firm in 2017 after Joe Bae and Scott Nuttall were named co-presidents and co-chief operating officers.

Navab had battled health issues in the past. He collapsed at an investor meeting in 2013 and was diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, the New York Post reported at the time.