KKR hires ex-Vodafone CEO as senior advisor

Arun Sarin, former chief of Accel-KKR Telecom, has returned to work for the publicly traded asset management firm.

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) has appointed Arun Sarin, the former CEO of UK mobile telecommunications company Vodafone, as a senior advisor.

The firm has worked with Sarin before, during his time as chief executive of Accel-KKR Telecom, a technology-focused affiliate of venture firm Accel Partners and KKR, between 2000 and 2003.

Sarin began his career in 1984 at telecommunications company Pacific Telesis Group (PTG) where he held a number of senior positions over the next decade. In 1997, he became the president and chief operating officer of AirTouch Communications, a spinoff of PTG’s wireless businesses. When AirTouch and Vodafone merged in 1999, Sarin assumed the role of chief executive for Vodafone’s US and Asia Pacific regions.

Arun Sarin

In 2000, he left Vodafone for Accel-KKR Telecom. Based in Menlo Park, California, Accel-KKR Telecom was founded by the senior partners of Accel Partners and KKR. The firm specialises in making control investments in mid-market technology companies. Last September, it closed its third private equity fund on its hard cap of $600 million.

Sarin rejoined Vodafone in 2003 as CEO, where he shifted the company’s mergers and acquisitions focus to emerging markets. In 2007, Sarin led Vodafone’s re-entry into India, the world's second largest market in terms of mobile phone subscribers and one of its fastest growing. He also led the acquisitions of mobile operators in Qatar, Turkey, Ghana, Romania and Czech Republic. He retired from Vodafone in 2008. 

KKR will be able to leverage Sarin’s business insights, experience and leadership across a range of management and investment initiatives, Henry Kravis and George Roberts, KKR’s co-founders, said in a statement.

His extensive experience in the telecommunications sector is likely to come in useful to KKR's investment in Bharti  Infratel, a subsidiary of Indian telecommunication company, Bharti Airtel. In 2008, the firm invested $250 million for a minority stake in the telecom tower company. That investment followed a $1 billion private placement that saw the involvement of other private equity players like Temasek Holdings, The Investment Corporation of Dubai, Goldman Sachs, the Macquarie Group, AIF Capital, Citigroup and India Equity Partners.

KKR's appointment of Sarin follows closely behind that of another senior advisor with Asian expertise. In August, KKR also appointed Singapore-based Michael Denoma, the former chief executive of global consumer bank Standard Chartered Bank, to the role.

The firm’s global network of senior advisors includes includes Sanjiv Ahuja, former chief executive officer of telecommunications operator Orange; John Bond, former group chairman of HSBC Holdings; and Bruce Duncan, chairman of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.