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Sudden exit of Carlyle Group’s CEO Kewsong Lee.

Private equity firm Carlyle Group Inc announced that Chief Executive Kewsong Lee, 56, has stepped down with immediate effect months before the scheduled end of his five-year contract.

Carlyle said in a statement it and Lee mutually agreed his contract which was due to finish at the end of 2022 would not be renewed, without disclosing their reasons. The firm, which reported earnings two weeks ago without flagging potential leadership changes, said Lee had also stepped down as a board member.

Co-founder Bill Conway will serve as interim CEO while the search for a new candidate takes place, the company said.

Lee, who turns 57 this week, could not immediately be reached for comment. His departure comes 18 months after Carlyle announced a strategic plan to accelerate growth and increase shareholder value.

The CEO search will be undertaken "with a sense of urgency", Conway said in a separate memo to global staff on Sunday that was reviewed by Reuters, adding the firm must continue to execute its business plan.

Conway also said in the memo that the firm had set up a CEO office consisting of key senior leaders, with whom he would work closely.

The senior leaders include Carlyle's Chief Operating Officer Chris Finn, who has delayed his previously announced end-2022 retirement to help with the transition.

Lee's departure comes as private equity firms face a challenging macroeconomic and investment environment fraught with geopolitical risks and sharply rising interest rates.

The firm performed better than its peers in the latest earnings. Its corporate private-equity funds were flat during the second quarter, while real estate and credit funds gained 4% and 2% respectively.

By contrast, Blackstone Inc and KKR & Co (KKR.N) reported a 6.7% and 7% depreciation in their private-equity portfolio respectively.

Carlyle has 26 offices across five continents, managing private equity and private credit funds and private equity asset manager AlpInvest.

As of June 30, 2022, the firm had $376 billion in total assets under management, of which $260 billion was fee-earning, while available capital for future investment was $81 billion, according to its Sunday statement.



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