What they said

“They are very savvy, intelligent and creative, and they work extraordinary hours. They don't know how to take no for an answer.”

Stephen Schwarzman, in a 1980 New York Times profile on KKR. Schwarzman, who went on to co-found The Blackstone Group, was then a partner at Lehman Brothers and represented one of KKR's takeover targets, forestproduct group Bendix.

“Yet despite our fund's recognition nationally, few people in Oregon understand the success we have had. We still get caught in political crosscurrents and discussions that we should be doing more for Oregon. That makes life difficult for me, because I think our job is to maximise earnings for taxpayers.”

James George, investment manager for the Oregon Investment Council, in a 1983 New York Times article justifying his pension's commitments to and co-investments with KKR. He noted that a single investment from KKR's 1982 fund, Norris Industries, has already returned to the pension several multiples over the $25 million it committed to the vehicle.

“The leveraged buyout firm of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., which came close to buying Gulf, assembled $6 billion of bank loan commitments for a deal that would have had a debt-equity ratio of 30-to-1. Wherever you look, the sharp-toothed little minnows are chasing the whales and sometimes swallowing them.”

From a 1985 commentary in Forbes magazine.

“The name and the face are very familiar. But I barely remember him.”

Celestia Williams, a teacher at Barnard Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when contacted by a The Oklahoman newspaper reporter for a 1988 profile on native son Henry Kravis.

“You live these things, you know. People say: What happens to you physically? Well, what happened to me personally is, I lost eight pounds – in five weeks. It's just the greatest diet. But for the same five weeks, I would wake up in the middle of the night and I'd think about the deal. Is RJR the right company to acquire? What happens to the people if we buy the company? Does this make sense for KKR's limited partners? What does it mean for my personal life if we buy something like this? You name it, everything you could think of about this deal, I woke up and thought about.”

Henry Kravis, speaking to the editor of Fortune in January 1989, after the bruising battle for RJR Nabisco.

“Greed really turns me off. To me, money means security. I do what I do because it's a challenge and I love it. But the money is not the important thing. I have a responsibility to the people in our firm, and to our investors, who have made a lot of this possible.”

Kravis again, in the same interview.

“This transaction was a watershed event. Everybody on Wall Street looks and acts very differently when they look at deals now. It's made everyone a little bit more conservative, calmed them down, took some of the fight out of them. No one's got the appetite after RJR.”

Peter A. Cohen, chairman of Wall Street investment bank Shearson Lehman Hutton, speaking in August 1989. Shearson bid for RJR against KKR – and lost. Quoted in “Barbarians at the Gate”.

“Can a made-for-TV movie about leveraged buyouts (‘LBOs’) be funny? Yup.”

A review from the film website IMDB on the 1993 HBO film “Barbarians at the Gate”.

“These guys [KKR] have built big, enduring institutional organisations. I take my hat off to the Kravises of the world. But I will say to you in total candour that I have no desire to do that.”

Ted Forstmann, telling a New York Times reporter in 2004 that he is shuttering his firm, Forstmann Little, following two disastrous investments in the telecom sector. Forstmann bid against KKR in the 1989 RJR Nabisco battle.

“No longer a barbarian: after 30 years in private equity, Henry Kravis has become the acceptable face of capitalism.”

Headline and standfirst of a profile of Kravis in The Economist in March 2006. The article said KKR's recent push to reinvigorate itself has been “a triumph”. It concluded: “Given the difficult outlook for the private-equity industry, perhaps Mr Kravis should retire now after all, while his standing is so high.”

“We don't believe there is a bubble. In 1987, the average deal was 93 percent debt and 7 percent equity. In 2006, the average deal had 33 percent equity and 67 percent debt. Given that the average company in the S&P 500 is now eight times the size of 20 years ago, that means 32 times the amount of equity of the old days to do a comparable deal.”

George Roberts in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in January 2007.