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Navab escaped Iranian Revolution and built successful PE career

  • Worked for KKR for 24 years
  • Was launching his own firm
  • Henry Kravis and George Roberts: “We are heartbroken.”

Alex Navab, a former high ranking executive at KKR who had recently launched his own firm, spent some of his childhood on the run.

Born in Isfahan, Iran, Navab fled the country with his family after hard-line religious leaders took control in 1979. The family took refuge in Greece, then immigrated to the United States two years later.

Navab, who died at age 53 on July 7 while on vacation with his family in Greece, made the most of his opportunities. He received a bachelor’s degree with high honors from Columbia College, which gave him the John Jay award in 2011 for distinguished professional achievements.

He went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School as a Baker Scholar and a recipient of the Wolfe Award.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said on Twitter: “[My wife] Columba and I are heartbroken to learn of our friend Alex Navab’s passing. Alex was a loving and committed husband and father and friend. He helped build one of America’s great financial businesses and was in the process of building his own firm. His capacity was surpassed only by his character. He will be missed. Our prayers go out to [Navab’s wife Mary Kathryn] and Navab family.”

In 2016, Navab received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which is given to people who “whose accomplishments in their field and inspired service to our nation are cause for celebration.”

“He [spoke] eloquently about the experience of immigration and the ways in which America’s dynamism and prosperity depend upon the nation’s continued openness and diversity,” according to the organization’s website.

Navab joined KKR in 1993 and rose through the ranks to take over leadership of the firm’s Americas private equity business. At KKR, he played a significant role in the development of Borden, Intermedia Communications, Ipreo, KSL Recreation, Neway Anchorlok, Newsquest Media, The Nielsen Co, NuVox, PanAmSat, Reltec, Tenovis, Visant, Yellow Pages Group, Weld North, World Color Press and Zhone Technologies.

He left KKR in 2017 after a succession process left him out of leadership. Over the past year, Navab had been working on launching his own firm called Navab Capital Partners. The firm was expected to target $3 billion for its debut fund, which was set to launch this year.

Navab had been on the fundraising trail meeting with potential limited partners and was excited and optimistic about his new venture, sources said. He had also received commitments from Goldman Sachs, including access to the bank’s wealth management network, sources said.

The future of Navab Capital is unclear. The firm released a public statement a day after Navab died:

“It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the untimely passing of our founder, Alexander (“Alex”) Navab. He passed away unexpectedly on Sunday while on holiday with his family. Alex was an accomplished business leader and generous philanthropist who loved his family and played an important role in the professional and personal lives of many. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones, and we ask that their privacy be respected at this very difficult time.”

KKR co-founders and co-CEOs Henry Kravis and George Roberts said in a statement: “We are heartbroken. A longtime member of the KKR family, Alex was an outstanding investor, leader, mentor and a friend to many. His contributions in business and philanthropy over his lifetime will forever remain part of his remarkable legacy. Our deepest condolences to his family who we know he cherished more than anything else.”

Navab had battled health issues in the past. He was diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia, or an irregular heart beat, after he collapsed at an investor meeting in 2013, the New York Post reported at the time.

He and his wife established the Mary Kathryn and Alex Navab Cardiothoracic Robotic Surgery Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where he served on the board of trustees.

He is survived by his wife and three children.