Cliff Robbins was once a “barbarian” dealmaker at KKR & Co. who worked on the historic RJR Nabisco buyout detailed in Bryan Burrough’s “Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco.”
Now he runs the “friendly” activist investing firm Blue Harbour Group.
In a Bloomberg profile, Robbins, who says he takes a private equity-style approach to shareholder activism, described his “friendly” activism:
“We don’t invest if we don’t like the management team, we don’t invest where we’re not welcome,” he said.
Robbins joined KKR a year and a half before the 1988 Nabisco deal, which would for years remain the largest leveraged buyout in history.
He said that working in private equity taught him the importance of finding smart, open-minded management that he can work with.
Now, his Blue Harbour manages about $US3.8 billion with stakes in some 50 companies, from retail to oil drilling, with market caps of $US2 billion-$US10 billion, according to the report. The firm usually buys 5-10% stakes in the companies.
And while he rarely makes the headlines, Robbins’ flagship fund has returned 15 per cent net annualized to investors over the past five years.