Carlyle Group finally has a chief executive. Now it just needs to firm up an identity.
The venerable private capital firm, which manages $373bn, has chosen former Goldman Sachs executive Harvey Schwartz as its new boss. Not before time. A leadership void was one reason fourth quarter fundraising pulled in a disappointing $5bn.
Schwartz has a background in trading and no high level experience as an investor. This is in contrast to predecessor Kewsong Lee. He departed suddenly in August after clashing with Carlyle’s founders.
The C-suite turmoil came at a tricky time. Rising interest rates and falling asset prices hurt the valuations of existing positions but also created unique opportunities to deploy cash.
On Tuesday, however, Carlyle reported a healthy 40 per cent annual jump in management fee income, alongside lacklustre fundraising. Portfolio returns in 2022 were decent. All its big groups reported positive returns during a year when public debt and equity markets suffered losses.
It is the task of leaders of institutional investors to set growth priorities. Blackstone has relentlessly focused on property investing. Apollo is a credit and life insurance specialist. Carlyle’s historic strength has been in leveraged buyouts, a lucrative but mature and cyclical area.
It has laggard status as a result. The stock trades at just 8 times 2022 cash earnings, around half the ratio for KKR and Blackstone. Schwartz needs to diversify Carlyle to narrow the gap. But he must convince Carlyle’s meddlesome founders first.
Schwartz will get a performance-dependent pay package valued at $180mn. That is a lot by any standard. However, several executives make more working at Carlyle’s rivals.
Schwartz lost out to David Solomon in the contest to lead Goldman Sachs. Carlyle represents a transformational challenge just as great. His advantage is strongest right now. Client confidence is weak and founders will be correspondingly emollient. If he works fast, Schwartz can change Carlyle for the better.
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