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The Influencers in Depth

Karen Bechtel

Sphere of Influence: Co-heads global health care for Carlyle and has invested approximately $2 billion of equity in companies around the world over the past 10 years

After a 30-year career at Morgan Stanley, Karen Bechtel joined the Carlyle Group LP (Nasdaq: CG) in 2005 to head up its healthcare investing practice. Bechtel had a long-standing interest in the sector. When everyone was excited about technology in the 1990’s Bechtel turned her focus to healthcare. Today, she is glad she did. Thanks to the aging demographics of baby boomers in the U.S. and increasing healthcare needs in emerging countries, the sector is ripe for investment.

“Healthcare has steady industry growth. I figured that out a long time ago and decided to focus on it,” says Bechtel. “I do healthcare 24/7.” Today, healthcare spending makes up approximately $8 trillion of the world’s gross domestic product. Working on a wide range of healthcare deals, she sits on the board of companies such as Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. and Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD), which she considers a home run on many levels.

PPD was a public company that Carlyle took private in 2011 for $3.9 billion. At the time, PPD was bidding to conduct clinical trials on behalf of big pharmaceutical companies. After Carlyle invested, Bechtel helped shift PPD’s business approach. Instead of only bidding on a case-by-case basis for each trial, PPD formed multi-trial strategic partnerships with pharmaceutical companies. “This fueled growth by 30 percent, and gave the company long-term contracts and a recurring revenue stream,” Bechtel explains.

“The company has seen great growth, and we have gotten some very good drugs approved that have helped the public,” says Bechtel. “I like working in healthcare, because we help people, and that’s the whole point. It’s a very rewarding sector.”