KKR goes larger

The private equity behemoth has hired its first general counsel, HR chief and information chief, as it leases additional Manhattan real estate for certain ‘administrative functions.’

KKR took its time. While its megafund peers like The Blackstone Group and The Carlyle Group are already in the process of expanding their in-house legal, HR and technology staffs, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts is appointing its first professionals dedicated to these roles.

The private equity firm has hired David Sorkin as general counsel. Although KKR has brought legal talent in-house before, none has had the title and responsibilities of a GC. Sorkin will officially join the firm in December.

Sorkin is a former partner at the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, which has long been KKR's primary law firm. Sorkin joined Simpson Thacher in 1985. He worked in the firm's famed RJR Nabisco deal and, more recently, on the landmark TXU buyout. Sorkin also advised KKR on its $5 billion Euronext offering, KKR Private Equity Investors, in 2006.

The private equity firm also announced it has hired Robert Gottlieb as a chief human resources officer. Gottlieb joins KKR after nearly 20 years at Goldman Sachs, where he worked in senior human resources management and administrative functions, according to a press release issued by the firm.

Edward Brandman will join KKR as chief information officer in charge of ?global technology and information strategy to support financial reporting, transactions and capital raising,? according to the release. Brandman joined the firm back in August from PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he was managing director in the advisory services group.

In a joint statement, KKR co-founders Henry Kravis and George Roberts said: ?Our more than 400 employees in seven offices around the world are capitalizing on a diverse and exciting range of investment opportunities as a global alternative asset manager. As we continue to grow our talent pool and expand our activities, a strong corporate infrastructure of senior executives will help support our global development and value creation for our investors.? One of those expanding ?activities? is the firm's plan to public float a portion of its management company in the first half of 2008.

The firm's fellow megafunds have long since hired in-house experts for these functions. For example, Carlyle hired its first HR professional, Lori Sabet in 2000. Sabet has remained with the firm, now overseeing an in-house staff dedicated to sourcing talent for all of Carlyle's offices. Carlyle also appointed its general counsel, Jeffrey Ferguson, in 2000, tapping the lawyer from the firm Latham & Watkins while he was still an associate. Carlyle named a director of information technology seven years ago as well.

In Blackstone's case, Sylvia Moss oversees the HR efforts among other administrative functions and she joined the firm in 1997. Blackstone may not have a general counsel in the classic sense, but Robert Friedman, listed as the firm's chief legal officer on the web site, provides some of the leadership traditionally vested in a GC. Friedman was promoted to that newly created position in 2003, after serving within its private equity group. The firm also appointed a chief information officer, Harry Moseley, in 2005 to oversee the firm's various technology initiatives. Moseley joined Blackstone from UBS, where he was the chief technology officer in the Americas. Several far smaller firms, even down in the middle market have in-house professionals exclusively dedicated to the HR, IT and the firm's legal needs.

KKR also recently signed a 10-year lease for approximately 20,700 square feet of prime midtown Manhattan office space at 730 Fifth Avenue just around the corner from its global headquarters on 57th Street. Though a KKR spokesman said the new space will be used for ?certain administrative functions? the firm declined to elaborate further on what those functions may be. The address is home to the Crown Building, a skyscraper noted for its ornate tower. The building dates to 1916, was the first location for the city's Museum of Modern Art and was once owned by Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, according to the New York Times.