Blackstone taps Nielsen CEO Calhoun to help run its companies

NEW YORK Thu Nov 21, 2013 10:33am EST

NEW YORK Nov 21 (Reuters) - Blackstone Group LP said Thursday it had hired David Calhoun, chief executive of television ratings company Nielsen Holdings NV, to work with the bosses of the private equity firm's companies in order to deliver more value.

Calhoun, who joined Nielsen in 2006 shortly after it was acquired by a Blackstone-backed consortium, will become head of Blackstone's private equity portfolio operations and sit on the firm's management and executive committees. He will be executive chairman at Nielsen beginning in January.

"He is one of the most talented CEOs we have ever worked with. We are excited to have him help guide our portfolio company operations as well as the strategic development of Blackstone itself," Blackstone co-founder and chief executive, Stephen Schwarzman, said in a statement.

Nielsen's operating income jumped from $800 million at the time of the leveraged buyout to $1.7 billion in 2012 under Calhoun's leadership, Blackstone said.

KKR & Co LP, which invested in Nielsen alongside Blackstone, disclosed in its third-quarter earnings that it has so far made 2.5 times its money on that investment as of the end of September. The private equity consortium, which includes Carlyle Group LP and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, has been gradually selling shares in Nielsen since taking it public in 2011.

A Virginia Tech graduate, 56-year-old Calhoun also served as vice chairman of General Electric Co and president and CEO of GE Infrastructure, the company's largest business unit. He sits on the boards of Boeing Co and Caterpillar Inc .

Blackstone, an alternative asset manager with $248.1 billion in assets, had $62.6 billion in private equity holdings as of the end of September. Its portfolio companies include SeaWorld Entertainment Inc, Hilton Worldwide Inc and Weather Channel LLC.

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