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Giving Back : KKR’s Henry Kravis Becomes Chairman Of Sponsors For Educational Opportunity

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Today’s global private equity firms have fingers in lots of different businesses and get involved in many different kinds of lucrative deals. These can include, for example, disruptive investments, mergers, acquisitions, divestments, bankruptcies, reorganizations, privatisations, public offerings, securitization of credit packages, and even dabbling as well in extensive gambling – or more euphemistically just “trading” – in currencies, swaps and futures.

In doing so these firms frequently make large amounts of money and, if American, sometimes pay little tax on their gains either depending on the structures involved.

Yet some of them still feel a need to be loved, and pay considerable attention to their status as good corporate citizens, even if only as prudent public relations. If they cannot completely hide their rapaciousness as business-men, and indeed why should they, they do try to offer a kinder face to the world at times as well.

Many of today’s private equity billionaires, who are frequently self-made men, therefore, offer a good deal of their time and give away a good deal of their wealth, to prominent social and philanthropic causes, both while they are active in business, after they retire and for sure once they are dead.

Just last week KKR co-founder, Co-Chairman & Co-CEO, Henry Kravis was named to become Chairman of Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, a New York City based organization that seeks to offer equal opportunities for education to disadvantaged children, particular Hispanic and African-American children.

KKR’s announcement stating his acceptance of the appointment says that one programme in particular attracted Kravis to the job. Namely, SEO Scholars, an eight year old academic programme to prepare low income public high school students for admission to the top universities in the country, and then to support them through to graduation.

William Goodloe, SEO’s president & CEO said, “We’re thrilled to have Henry Kravis’ leadership to expand SEO Scholars and help more low-income students break the cycle of poverty by obtaining a college degree, ” adding,

“He is deeply committed to the often-neglected students that SEO Scholars serves: those who are motivated to come to high school every day and wish to attend college. By providing intense support from 9th grade through college graduation to these students, there is a tremendous opportunity to transform not only individual lives and families, but also entire communities.”

While in high school, students in the programme attend over 720 hours of Saturday, summer and after-school classes in reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, and mathematics.

Every student in SEO Scholars is accepted to a four-year college; 95% go on to graduate from college in six years and 80% graduate in four years.

While in college, students receive ongoing one-on-one academic advising, personal support and career guidance.

Speaking for himself, to explain his interest in SEO, Henry Kravis, said “SEO Scholars is a stellar model of what works, and it’s ready for expansion. The program’s nearly 100% college graduation rate is an incredible record of success. I look forward to helping advance its mission of ensuring that motivated, low-income students can succeed at four-year colleges.”

The founder and Chairman Emeritus of SEO is Michael Osheowitz, a retired former Wall Street investor himself, who said: “Students who participate in SEO Scholars increase their performance on standardized tests substantially and, in effect, eliminate the Black-White and Hispanic-White achievement gaps, ” adding “To have Henry Kravis as SEO’s board Chair will enable SEO Scholars to close the achievement gap for thousands more low-income students.”

Mr. Kravis has become increasingly involved with SEO since KKR became a founding partner of the SEO Alternative Investments fellowship program in 2009. He hosts an annual breakfast seminar for SEO Career interns and, in 2013, he and his wife Marie-Josée Kravis donated US$4 million to SEO Scholars which will go toward eventually doubling the number of incoming students served in the program.

About Sponsors for Educational Opportunity

SEO was founded in 1963 with a mission to provide talented and motivated young people from underserved and under-represented communities with access to superior educational and career opportunities.

Today, SEO runs three programs: SEO Scholars is an eight-year full academic program; SEO Career a summer internship and training program for underrepresented college students, and SEO Alternative Investments which provides education, exposure, training and mentoring opportunities to talented professionals.

About Henry Kravis

Henry Kravis co-founded the, New York Stock Exchange listed, investment firm KKR in 1976, and today is its Co-Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer. As well he currently serves on the boards of First Data Corporation and China International Capital Corporation Limited.

Mr. Kravis is actively involved in the New York Community. In 1996, he established the New York City Investment Fund, today known as the Partnership Fund for New York City, a non-profit organization that works to create jobs and help small businesses in New York City.

In 2011, he donated US$100 million to Columbia Business School to fund the building of a learning center for entrepreneurs at its Manhattanville campus.

Henry Kravis also serves as a director, chairman emeritus or trustee of several cultural, professional, and educational institutions, including SEO, The Business Council, Claremont McKenna College, Columbia Business School, Mount Sinai Hospital, the Partnership Fund for New York City, Partnership for New York City, Rockefeller University, and Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management.

He earned his B.A. from Claremont McKenna College in 1967 and an M.B.A. from the Columbia Business School in 1969. Since then he has spent more than four decades financing, analyzing, and investing in public and private companies, as well as serving on the boards of a number of KKR portfolio companies.




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