Lessons from Four Decades of Investing and Providing Market-Oriented Solutions to Social issues with George Roberts, Founder of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR)

On November 9, 2015 George Roberts, Co-Founder of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) joined Dean Judy Olian for the inaugural event of the academic year in the CGM’s Robertson Lecture Series on Global Business Leadership. The discussion in Korn Convocation Hall focused on “Lessons from Four Decades of Investing and Providing Market-Oriented Solutions to Social Issues.” George Roberts was one of the founding partners of KKR in 1976. Today, KKR is a leading global investment firm that manages investments across multiple asset classes including private equity, energy, infrastructure, real estate, credit and hedge funds. In 1997, using the principles he developed while leading KKR, Roberts co-founded and structured REDF (the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund), a California-based nonprofit that was formed with a mandate to launch and grow social enterprises. Roberts joined Dean Judy Olian for a moderated discussion where he shared his lessons from four decades of investment and discussed his thoughts on venture philanthropy, and how he uses the principles he developed while leading KKR to provide market-oriented solutions to social issues, known as the REDF model that works at the intersection of where market forces meet social impact to end chronic joblessness in America. Knowing the power jobs can have in transforming lives and communities, Roberts put his own money to work to end persistent joblessness and launched what would become known as venture philanthropy, with the mindset of an investor, and an expected return measured in people with jobs and lives changed. When Roberts launched REDF, his goal was visionary: invest in social enterprises that create jobs and reinvest their earnings in skill development, training, and services for their employees. The strategy to reach this goal was shaped with a unique combination of social mission and private sector experience. By 2004, REDF’s methods and reputation had grown, enabling it to convert from a family foundation to the independent nonprofit it is today. Over 300 UCLA students, alumni, faculty and staff, as well as members from the community gathered in Korn Convocation Hall for the discussion. The event was organized by the CGM and supported by the Los Angeles World Affairs Council and UCLA Anderson’s Investment Finance Association and Net Impact.