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Private equity

Joe Bae to co-lead KKR as 2nd Korean-origin CEO of a PE giant

Bae, named as new co-CEO, led KKR's Asian expansion, including a whopping return from Korea's Oriental Brewery

By Oct 13, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Joseph Bae
Joseph Bae

Joseph Bae, co-president of KKR & Co., was named as its co-chief executive officer this week, becoming the second CEO of Korean origin to lead a global private equity giant after the Carlyle Group's Kew Lee.  

Along with Bae, Scott Nuttall was appointed as co-CEO, succeeding Henry Kravis and George Roberts who co-founded the US private equity firm in 1976. 

Both Bae and Nuttall joined KKR in 1996 and have served as co-presidents and co-chief operating officers since July 2017. Kravis and Roberts, 78 and 79, respectively, will serve as executive co-chairmen of the PE firm, which manages $429 billion in assets.

Bae has played a key role in KKR's foray into Hong Kong and other parts of Asia where other American PE giants such as Carlyle, TPG and Warburg Pincus already dominated.

He spearheaded one of the firm's most profitable exits: South Korea's Oriental Brewery Co. KKR bought the beer brand for $1.9 billion in 2009 and sold it to Belgium-based beer brewer AB InBev for $5.8 billion five years later in 2014. He also led high-profile carve-out deals for Japanese conglomerates, including Panasonic and Hitachi.

"He was the architect of KKR’s expansion in Asia, building one of the largest and most successful platforms in the market," KKR said in a statement on Monday.

He moved to Hong Kong in 2005 in his early 30s to head KKR's Asian operations, which had made up for the moribund US deal market in the wake of the 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis.

His appointment as co-CEO comes a year after Kewsong Lee, then co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, took the reins of the US private equity group as CEO after co-CEO Glenn Youngkin decided to retire at the end of September 2020.

KKR said the other co-CEO Nuttall has led the firm’s major strategic development initiatives, including leading KKR's public listing and developing the firm’s balance sheet strategy. He also oversaw the development of KKR’s public markets businesses in the credit and hedge fund space, as well as the creation of the firm’s capital markets, capital raising and insurance businesses.

Joe Bae to co-lead KKR as 2nd Korean-origin CEO of a PE giant

His appointment comes a day ahead of the announcement by SK E&S Co., South Korea's largest city gas supplier, that KKR was selected as the exclusive negotiator to buy its 2.4 trillion won ($2 billion) worth of new preferred shares. KKR beat three other shortlisted bidders -- IMM Private Equity, IMM Investment and New York-based EMP Belstar -- for the share deal.

Bae also led the $1.67 billion purchase in 2014 of Panasonic's healthcare unit, currently named PHC Holdings Corp. The Japanese medical device maker is listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange this week.

For South Korea's National Pension Service (NPS), the world's third-largest pension scheme, KKR was at the top of the list of its external PE investment firms as of the end of 2020, slightly ahead of Carlyle and TPG in terms of the number of investment vehicles that won the NPS' mandates.

At the age of three, Bae immigrated to the US with his father, a chemical research scientist, and his mother, a missionary. After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University with a bachelor's degree, he landed his first job with Goldman Sachs's proprietary investment division.

Born in 1973, Bae once dreamed of being a pianist. His net worth is currently estimated at $1.1 billion, according to Forbes. He is married to Janice Lee, a Korean American fiction writer, whom he met at Harvard. They have four children. 

Write to Ri-Ahn Kim at

Yeonhee Kim edited this article.

Comment 1

  • Tep Sopheap

    2021-10-13 21:20:58 (Gmt+09:00)

    Now I am looking for buyer for lot in Cambodia. Land have size 2119 hectars in a project SEZ in Cambodia.