Carlyle Chairman Retires to Senior Advisor Role

The Carlyle Group’s Chairman, Louis Gerstner, announced his retirement today.

Gerstner is known for saving IBM from demise in the early 90’s by shifting the computer products company’s focus to services. He joined Carlyle as Chairman in January 2003 (just after writing the humbly titled book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? How I Turned Around IBM).

Notably, Gerstner was probably one of the earliest high profile operational hires for Carlyle, or any LBO shop. As more firms seek to specialize and differentiate themselves, that trend has picked up—one recent example is Gores Group’s hiring of an army of four-star generals to assist in its defense investments.

Further operational hires from Carlyle included former J.P. Morgan head Douglas “Sandy” Warner, ex-Nextel head Daniel Akerson, and John Jumper, a retired high level Air Force official. Hell, the firm even employed former British Prime Minister John Major and George Bush senior!

Carlyle will retain Gerstner’s star power as a Senior Advisor to its global buyout funds, though the level of involvement isn’t clear. During his tenure as chairman, Gertsner “helped institutionalize and mature key aspects of the firm.” I’m not fluent in PR, but I think that means he smoothed out rough edges of new or developing programs. Fitting for a turnaround ops guy. His replacement, who has yet to be named, will need to work at sustaining those initiatives, as Carlyle’s global team receives increased competition with more firms entering the fray in Asia.

Despite the firm’s (financial) celebrity appeal, Carlyle met a bump in the road this year when its European bond fund collapsed as investors rushed to sell the assets backing the fund.

Read more bad news about Carlyle in the latest issue of Buyouts: Hedge Fund Move Backfires On Carlyle Group

And in a somewhat related side note, Carlyle’s communications man, Chris Ullman, is a celebrity in his own right. The man is a four-time national and international whistling champion.