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KKR's credit investments chief steps down

By Greg Roumeliotis

NEW YORK (Reuters) - KKR & Co LP said on Tuesday that William Sonneborn, who heads its corporate credit and equity investments and is chief executive of its publicly traded specialty finance company KFN , would step down to pursue a new challenge.

KKR expressed disappointment with Sonneborn's decision but praised his contribution to the firm. A spokeswoman did not elaborate on the 43-year-old executive's new challenge but said he would serve as a senior adviser to the firm.

"If I'm true to my word on doing everything I can to maximize shareholder value, it's an optimal time for me to make a change. Orson Welles once said: 'If you want a happy ending, you need to know when to end your story,'" Sonneborn told a conference call with analysts on Tuesday.

A former Goldman Sachs Group Inc investment banker, Sonneborn joined KKR in 2008 from money manager TCW Group Inc, where he served as president at the time it was in talks about a possible deal with KKR. TCW was taken over in February by KKR's private equity rival Carlyle Group LP .

Effective Wednesday, Sonneborn will be succeeded by Craig Farr, 41, who serves as global head of KKR's capital markets and origination business and will also retain that position.

It was not immediately clear why Sonneborn's resignation was made public at such short notice, although KFN reported second-quarter earnings on Tuesday, offering an opportunity for him to announce he was stepping down.

KKR updated most regulatory documents with reference to Sonneborn on Tuesday, including a prospectus on the upcoming KKR Income Opportunities Fund, a KKR mutual fund that he would head.

"Bill's calm leadership, long-term focus and commitment to protecting shareholder value not only navigated KFN through the crisis but to its current position of stability and strength," Farr told analysts on the same call on Tuesday.

KFN shares were trading at around 75 cents when Sonneborn took over, Farr said. They ended trading on Tuesday at $11. KKR's credit fee-paying assets, for which Farr will now be responsible, were $12 billion as of the end of March, up 35 percent from a year ago.

While Farr will continue to oversee capital markets, KKR said some of Farr's team members would assume greater responsibilities.

John Empson and Jeff Rowbottom will lead the global capital markets structuring and distribution efforts, while Adam Smith will oversee MerchCap Solutions, a middle market capital markets joint venture with Stone Point Capital LLC.

Founded in 1976 by Henry Kravis, George Roberts and Jerome Kohlberg, KKR has expanded beyond its private equity roots into credit, real estate, hedge funds and other alternative investments. It had $78.3 billion of assets under management as of the end of March.

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Eric Beech)

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