Kewsong Lee, co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, a private equity fund whose assets include a minority investment in Big Machine Label Group, the record company that’s home to Taylor Swift’s catalog, spoke to CNBC’s “Squawk Alley” on Wednesday. During the interview, held at the Goldman Sachs Financial Conference, host Wilfred Frost asked the business executive about the company’s stand on the singer’s battle with Scooter Braun.
For the most part, Lee deflected addressing the drama, telling the business news outlet, “She’s an incredibly talented performer and wonderful artist,” and adding that he’s “not involved in the day-to-day of all of our portfolio companies” but has “every confidence in the world that is going to turn out to be a successful investment.”
Pressed on what Frost called “the more emotional human arguments that also apply here,” Lee answered: “When you are in an investing business, you have all sorts of risks, from regulatory to financing. And these risks are no different. They’re peculiar or particular to this industry. But we are well experienced in terms of managing through and working with our management teams to try to get to great outcomes.”
Pointing to a tweet by Senator Elizabeth Warren which suggested that Swift is “one of many whose work has been threatened by a private equity firm,” Lee was asked if private equity gets a bad rap to which he agreed. “I do think private equity is a misunderstood industry. We have an enormous value-added function in the economy because of the returns that we are providing to first responders, teachers, folks in unions. And we provide the returns that enable these people, grandmothers, grandfathers, to retire comfortably. And that’s a little bit understood, but what’s really not really understood is the role that we play in our companies. But it is darn value-added. And I think that story is probably something that needs to be better communicated.”
Lee was also asked about the trade war with China, to which he answered: I think we are in a period of time where construction engagement is going to be needed, maybe on a multilateral basis, to find fair standards that work for international — on an international standards basis, where we have healthy competition, where we have free flow capitol and smart regulations, so that these ecosystems can learn to coexist and mutually prosper.”
Lee also touted the cultural changes that have been made at Carlyle since he came in a CEO two years ago. “We have made huge strides in pushing diversity and division,” he said. “We’re already one of the leaders in diversity, with almost half of our assets are managed by women. 50% of our new employees are women. And, the essence of our business is to make great investment decisions.”
Watch the full interview below: