Glenn Youngkin

Carlyle Group co-CEO Glenn Youngkin is stepping down after less than three years at the helm, handing sole control of the private equity giant to Kewsong Lee in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Youngkin, 53, who joined Carlyle in his 20s and was long groomed by its founders, decided to give up his post and will depart at the end of September to focus on public service, the firm said in a statement Tuesday.
The abrupt exit leaves the $217 billion alternative asset manager squarely under the control of Lee, a skilled dealmaker who joined in 2013 from Warburg Pincus. Most of the firm’s prominent initiatives of recent years, including growing its credit and insurance businesses, already were under Lee’s purview.

The duo’s ascent in early 2018 marked a bold experiment for the relatively young world of private equity: an attempt to pass full operational control from the firm’s pioneering founders — David Rubenstein, Bill Conway and Daniel D’Aniello — to a new team of leaders to continue its growth. Rivals such as Blackstone Group, Apollo Global Management and KKR & have elevated their next generation and laid out succession plans, but stopped short of handing off the reins completely. Now Carlyle is shaking things up in the midst of a global crisis.

Across the private equity industry, asset managers are trying to assure investors that their portfolios are not only well-positioned to ride through the economic carnage inflicted by COVID-19, but that they can capitalize on opportunities that might arise during the turmoil. Carlyle reported its biggest loss as a public company in the first quarter but has said it’s prepared to handle a crisis with a wide range of outcomes.

“The Carlyle team has built great momentum, has a strong culture of collaboration, and has created long-term value for companies, communities and shareholders,” Youngkin said in Tuesday’s statement. “As the world continues to face so many challenges today, and as Carlyle is well-positioned, now is a natural point to focus my full-time efforts on community and public service efforts that I believe can make a meaningful impact.”

The Washington-based firm took some big hits in the first quarter, with the global credit unit seeing funds fall 21%. Natural resources funds fell 22%. The firm is set to report second-quarter results next week.

Youngkin, an alum of Harvard Business School and McKinsey, launched a non-profit last month with his wife, Suzanne, that aims to retrain unemployed Virginians and get them back to work.

“He did an outstanding job as co-CEO, but I certainly understand the pull of the kind of public service activities to which Glenn is committed,” Rubenstein said in the statement. “We are fortunate that Kew is extremely well positioned to serve as our CEO, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with him on behalf of all of Carlyle’s stakeholders.”