After Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, one of its top managers has moved to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. The venerable buyout fund has hired Makram Azar, Lehman's head of sovereign wealth, to lead the private equity group's push into the Middle East.
One, this is the indication that Lehman's top team will be lured away by other financial biggies. Second, the private equity funds are looking at new geographies for growth and diversifying themselves from the heavily-leveraged US and European companies.
Azar was also chairman of media investment banking for Europe and the Middle East at Lehman and worked closely with KKR on its recent acquisitions of SBS Broadcasting in Luxembourg and ProSiebenSat.1 in Germany, reports Financial Times. He is expected to hire two or three more people to work with him, FT added.
The other advantage Azar will bring in is that he is well connected with sovereign wealth funds in the region. The 41-year-old Lebanese banker is based in Dubai. FT reports that he introduced Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed to Mediaset in Italy and Kirch of Germany in the early 1990s and has also worked with the Qatar Investment Authority and Istithmar of Dubai.
That is a whole lot of experience Azar can bring into KKR. The buyout fund is diversifying into infrastructure, public equities, property, and mezzanine debt. It's also believed to be looking at a senior hand in India to head up its operations.
KKR is one of the few funds that have office in the Middle East. It's likely now the region will be the hotbed of action for PE funds. The region is home for oil-rich sovereign wealth funds like Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Isthitmar, Dubai Investment Authority and so on.