The abrupt departure of Carlyle group chief Kewsong Lee may be a case of the “empire striking back”, analysts have suggested, as co-founder Bill Conway steps back in as interim chief executive.
The Washington-based private equity outfit announced abruptly on Sunday that Lee would be departing the firm after five years, with Carlyle co-founder Conway temporarily taking the reins as it hunts for a new chief.
Sources told Reuters yesterday that the exit was triggered by negotiations on a new contract over which he clashed with Carlyle’s board.
Lee had been brought on by Conway from rival Warburg Pincus, and Oppenheimer analyst Chris Kotowski said the move may be a case of the founders reasserting control
“It is, in our mind, most likely a case of the empire striking back,” Kotowski said.
“All the other private equity managers that we cover have had internal, homegrown talent lead their transition from the founders, and that is probably not an accident. It is a business where personalities matter.”
Lee took over as sole chief in 2020 after joining Carlyle in 2013, but his attempts to reshape the firm had reportedly put him at odds with firm’s board, including trying to shift the firm’s power base toward New York.
Shares in the firms plunged beyond seven per cent yesterday on the news of the departure.
Conway said in a statement on Sunday that Carlyle was “grateful to Kewsong for everything he has done to position Carlyle for the future.”
“Today, Carlyle is a more diversified, resilient firm with the resources to continue to invest in accelerating our growth trajectory,” he added.