Off-duty: Vistria’s Kip Kirkpatrick on hip hop, the beach and doing well by doing good

Vistria was set up to earn superior performance while applying a social lens to investing because “running a business the right way leads to higher returns,” Kirkpatrick said.

Kip Kirkpatrick, Vistria Group

Buyouts’ Off-duty provides a snapshot of top investors, including a few details about what they do when not chasing deals.

Vistria Group was founded in 2013 by co-CEOs Kip Kirkpatrick and Marty Nesbitt with a unique strategy.

Like other private equity firms, it works hard to earn superior performance for LPs. But when underwriting an education, financial services or healthcare investment, it also applies a social impact lens because “running a business the right way leads to higher returns,” Kirkpatrick told Buyouts.

It cannot be done, you say. Vistria’s third fund was as of December generating a 29.4 percent net IRR, according to GCM Grosvenor, while its second fund was generating a 32.8 percent net IRR. Fund IV closed last year at $2.68 billion, ahead of a $1.5 billion target.

Before Vistria, Kirkpatrick co-founded One Equity Partners, the ex-private investment arm of JP Morgan, and Water Street Healthcare Partners. He started his PE career at First Chicago Equity Capital.

In his college years, Kirkpatrick was a three-year starter on the men’s basketball team at Northwestern University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in business administration.

Where is your hometown?                                                                                      

Lexington, Kentucky.

If you weren’t in PE, what job would you like to have?

Professor of finance, business or history or a high school basketball coach.

How do you relax when you’re not working?

Hanging out with my family playing cards, typically euchre or poker.

What book are you reading right now?

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson.

What is your favorite song, album, performer or music genre?

I get teased about this relentlessly, but 1980s and 1990s rap. Flavor Flav and Public Enemy. I was raised on hip hop.

What is your favorite place for a vacation, sanctuary or a place to explore? 

I really appreciate a beach vacation with 20 or 30 close family members. If it’s near a golf course, even better.

Who in your career do you regard as a mentor?

In the Northwestern University community, former board chairmen Pat Ryan and Bill Osborn, and a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, Bob Duncan. Personally, my dad and granddad, who were involved in public service.

Professionally, what was your toughest moment?

Probably leaving a firm I founded in search of something more meaningful and rewarding.

What was your most rewarding moment?

Honestly, I don’t think it has happened yet. Vistria is still just getting started in what we can do for our investors and the world around us. I’ll get back to you. Personally, my most rewarding moment has been raising four children with my wife, who was my high school sweetheart.

What PE buzz words or jargon do you hate most?

“Pro forma, run-rate adjusted EBITDA.”

What advice would you give a young person interested in a PE career?

Like every other career, there is no substitute for hard work. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Use rejection as fuel to persevere. Embrace the journey. Stay the course.

What word or phrase best describes you?

Driven, determined, dedicated and down-to-earth. Mission-oriented and family-focused.