Henry Kravis is a Wall Street legend.
The firm he founded with his cousin George Roberts in 1976, KKR, now manages $130 billion. It has just under 1,000 different investors, many of which are state and municipal pension funds, and its portfolio of companies stands at more than 100.
The firm has done a number of iconic deals, ranging from the acquisition of RJR Nabisco in the firm’s early years to more recent deals for the likes of Alliance Boots, First Data and Clear Channel.
Kravis personally is estimated to have a net worth of close to $5 billion, according to Forbes.
That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t made mistakes, however. In an with Kip McDaniel at Institutional Investor, Kravis was asked to identify a mistake he made more than once during his 40 years at KKR. His answer was pretty brutal, but it gets to a classic Wall Street concept: knowing when to cut your losses.
Here’s what Kravis had to say:
We might have been too slow in changing out some CEOs of companies we had, keep thinking that he or she will get a lot better. I can pretty well tell you that what you see upfront is pretty much what you’ll see in the end. You can help around the edges, but people don’t change that much.
Waiting is a lost opportunity. And we used to wait. And we didn’t do it just once, we did it a number of times. Because we kept thinking, ‘OK it’s not the right time, we don’t have the right person.’
I think today we move much faster than we ever did.