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KKR Taps Former Willis CEO Plumeri to Be Senior Adviser

Posted on 21 Aug 2013 by Neilson

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Joseph PulmeriVeteran finance executive Joseph J. Plumeri, who helped shepherd one of KKR & Co.'s most profitable investments, has joined the New York buyout firm to help turn around another one of its big buyouts.

Mr. Plumeri will be a senior advisor to KKR, he said in an interview. His first assignment will be to sit on the board of payment processor First Data Corp., which KKR took private in 2007 in a $26.35 billion deal that is the second largest leveraged buyout in history.

First Data, which posted revenue of more than $10 billion last year and has more than 24,000 employees, has been a disappointment for the legendary private-equity firm. KKR had its investment in First Data written down to about 70 cents on the dollar as of June 30.

Mr. Plumeri is the second big name financial executive brought in this year to help right the ship at the Atlanta- based company. In April, First Data hired J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.'s co-Chief Operating Officer Frank Bisignano -- a close ally to Chief Executive James Dimon -- to be its CEO.

Mr. Plumeri's arrival will be a reunion of sorts between the two men, who worked together under former Citigroup Inc. CEO Sandy Weill. Mr. Plumeri, 70, was mentored by Mr. Weill and held various prominent roles in the financial empire he created. One of his last roles was to integrate the consumer businesses of Citicorp and Travelers Group after their 1998 merger.

In 2000, Mr. Plumeri took the reins of The Willis Group, the 185-year-old insurance broker that KKR and others had acquired two years earlier. Mr. Plumeri was chief executive and chairman of Willis when it returned to public ownership and for several years afterward.

"I'm a guy that believes in sequels," Mr. Plumeri said in the interview.

Mr. Plumeri "led the transformation of Willis from a company with an enterprise value of less than $2 billion to one with nearly $10 billion, " KKR Co-Founder and Co-CEO Henry Kravis said in a written statement. By the time it had fully exited its Willis investment, KKR made more than nine times its money on the deal, according to people familiar with the matter.

In addition to serving on the boards of companies it already owns, Mr. Plumeri will help KKR find new deals in his new role.