When COVID-19 hit the world economy, KKR & Co.'s management jumped on calls and quickly agreed they'd seen this movie before.
The plot contained a massive market dislocation, financing shutdown and uncertain future for company earnings. That was during the great financial crisis, which KKR could have played better, according to Johannes Huth, its top dealmaker in Europe.
"There's a conscious effort on our side to not repeat our shortcomings of 2008-09 in terms of deploying capital," he said in an interview by video call last week. KKR decided "very early on, before markets hit all-time lows," that it needed to invest through the downturn, Mr. Huth said.
It has wasted little time. KKR has been the most-active private equity house globally since the coronavirus crisis took hold of markets at the start of March, deploying $12.7 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
With many in private equity taking a cautious approach to acquisitions through the downturn, KKR has spent more than three major rivals combined — Silver Lake Management, Apollo Global Management Inc. and Blackstone Group Inc. Silver Lake has been the second-busiest acquirer, with $5.9 billion in deals during the period, the data show.