(Bloomberg) -- Alex Navab, a former KKR & Co. executive who was building his own private-equity firm, has died. He was 53.
He died Sunday while on a brief vacation, according to a statement Monday from his firm, Navab Capital Partners.
“It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the untimely passing of our founder, Alexander Navab,” according to the statement. “Alex was an accomplished business leader and generous philanthropist who loved his family and played an important role in the professional and personal lives of many.”
The veteran dealmaker left KKR after almost a quarter century and in April set up his own company in New York. He recruited fellow buyout specialists with experience at firms including the Carlyle Group LP and Warburg Pincus. He planned to raise billions of dollars and recruit co-investors to compete for private equity deals in health care, technology, media and financial services in North America.
Navab joined KKR in 1993 and eventually became sole head of its private-equity business in the Americas, helping the firm raise a $14 billion fund. He was also a member of the management committee. He left KKR about two years ago, shortly after co-founders Henry Kravis and George Roberts named Scott Nuttall and Joseph Bae co-presidents.
“We are heartbroken,” Kravis and Roberts said in a statement. “A longtime member of the KKR family, Alex was an outstanding investor, leader, mentor and a friend to many. His contributions in business and philanthropy over his lifetime will forever remain part of his remarkable legacy.”
Alexander Navab was born in Iran and fled the Islamic revolution in 1979.
He attended the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and an MBA from Harvard University. Early in his career he worked in investment banking at Goldman Sachs.
Active in philanthropy, he was a trustee at Columbia and board member at New York Presbyterian Hospital and The Robin Hood Foundation. In 2016 he was awarded with an Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Last year he and his wife Mary Kathryn gave a $6 million gift to start a fellowship program for Columbia internships.
“Our entire community mourns the loss of Alex Navab, who was not just an incredible philanthropist, but an incredible person,” said Larry Robbins, chairman of Robin Hood’s board. “During his more than a decade of service on Robin Hood’s leadership council and board, Alex used his extensive experience in the private equity world to drive Robin Hood’s impact forward. Alex Navab’s commitment, generosity and leadership are irreplaceable.”
Navab also was on the advisory council of the Hamilton Project, a group of academics and business leaders who put forth proposals for economic policy, and formerly was national co-chair of the American Enterprise Institute. He supported former Florida Governor Jeb Bush for the Republican nomination for president and has contributed to others in the party.
Navab is survived by his wife and three children.
(Adds Robbins’s comments in 10th paragraph.)
--With assistance from Amanda Gordon.
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