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Private equity entrepreneur Kim Kardashian: "So I thought it would be a good step to take action myself"


David Rubenstein (73) was often exactly where it was in his life. At the end of the 70s, he accompanied US President Jimmy Carter (98) to the White House when he cleaned up there after the Watergate affair. Ten years later, he founded the Carlyle company and became a central pioneer for the then new investment companies, which now brought him 3.2 billion dollars in assets. And on Wednesday of this week, he sat in Berlin with Kim Kardashian (42), conference rooms "Potsdam I and II" in the hotel "Intercontinental" somewhere between the Landwehrkanal and the zoo.

Rubenstein, who lets his interlocutors shine with a dry sense of humour, asked: "So, to understand: Your clothing brand is called Skims and your skin care products are called Skin by ..."

Kardashian: "... Kim. ..."

Rubenstein: "I'm sure you needed a lot of help finding a name. And now there's a private equity firm called Skky, which is usually spelled with a K."

Kardashian: "My co-founder's name is Jay S-ammons, and I'm K-im K-ardashian."

Rubenstein: "It's certainly not easy for private equity newcomers in these times. How do I have to imagine it when you ask investors for an appointment – do you often hear 'no'?"

The answer is given by the hall: Puffing on roughly 500 chairs, which were already occupied a good hour before the event.

"On the floor"

It is the reaction of a group that normally hardly raises a corner of their mouth with seriousness and pride: Every year, the world's elite of the investment industry comes together for a week in Berlin to collect investor money, discuss market developments and drink champagne on roof terraces at a conference called "Superreturn", which is completely irony-free.

Everything revolves around the perpetual private equity triad: buy companies (on credit), make them bigger, resell them for more money. It is a hermetic and homogeneous world that revolves around its own logic and codes, unfazed by external shocks. Interest rate jumps and energy crises are shrinking to management tasks, as are anxious buyers and still ambitiously negotiating sellers.

Leaning against pillars and bent over iPads, millions are negotiated in the corridors and the success factors of the hour are searched for on podiums. Consensus after the first three days: Gone are the paradisiacal conditions of the zero interest rate period, in which you could watch companies bought with free borrowed money grow and simply resell them after a few years. In the near future, success will only be achieved if you make your portfolio companies better bit by bit with strategy decisions and detailed optimization. That sounds like a lot more work and a lot less fun than in the days of the super boom: The turnaround in interest rates could now overwhelm many.

Working "on the ground" is perhaps the most used phrase of Superreturn 2023, and it resonates with a bit of head-shaking.

And then Kim Kardashian takes the stage. It disrupts the busy routine – because for a moment someone breaks into this world who is bigger than the assembled economic magicians themselves – with the exception of Rubenstein, perhaps.

So, for once, no one looks at their cell phone when Kardashian behind Rubenstein and co-founder Jay Sammons tripped the three or four steps onto the stage. She is sewn into a floor-length, navy green dress, which – in her case, this is part of the factual description – emphasizes the brand's typical body shape. So what connects the superstar, storyteller, influencer, now also Skky founder and thus new colleague with the private equity industry? Can she, apart from glamour, enrich the scene?

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