After searching for a job with Wall Street’s venture capital and private equity firms, General David Petraeus is about to launch a new career. The former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and retired commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan landed a job as Chairman of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts’ (KKR) Global Institute.
Aside from his ignominious departure from the CIA, his arguable lack of “surge” strategy success in Iraq and failed counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, Patraeus’ resume nevertheless is quite impressive. He has a doctorate from Princeton University, has written on international relations, and he has taught economics and international relations at West Point. Along with his military credentials, I would think Petraeus is certainly qualified for the position.
But Petraeus did not land the job with KKR because of any expertise he may have in the world of Leveraged Buyout (LBO) firms. Patraeus is not a stranger on Capitol Hill or to world leaders and despite his failures remains highly regarded. The Boston Globe’s Bryan Bender provides some insight, he writes, “When a general-turned-businessman arrives at the Pentagon, he is often treated with extraordinary deference – as if still in uniform – which can greatly increase his effectiveness as a rainmaker for industry.”
Petraeus will be serving as a consultant specializing in helping KKR evaluate investment opportunities in new markets. He will be overseeing former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, who is Managing Director and Head of Global Public Affairs, which includes corporate marketing, regulatory affairs and public policy & communications.” Fancy words that only mean Mehlman is a lobbyist for KKR, and when he needs it, he has head honcho David Petraeus at his side.
Forbes’ George Anders suggests, “Could Petraeus use his network of connections to help KKR close more deals? Perhaps. But there’s a deeper motive for this alliance that looks far more compelling.
“In essence, KKR wants Petraeus, a former four-star general with a uniquely intellectual bent, to help establish the private-equity firm as a citadel of big-picture insights. That would be a welcome change for Kravis and Roberts, who doubtless have grown tired of endless allusions to “Barbarians at the Gate,” an archly titled account of KKR’s 1988 [hostile] takeover battle for RJR Nabisco.”
So an image unfolds of just why KKR would hire a man whose skill set is principally suited to the conduct of hostile confrontation in war. David Petraeus is a man who is influentially well-connected with a mindset well suited for involvement with the “barbarians of Wall Street” in the oftentimes hairy and vile world of LBOs, colloquially known as hostile takeovers.