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Obama's Commerce pick has private equity ties

June 1, 2011: 12:12 PM ET

From KKR to Commerce

President Obama yesterday nominated John Bryson to lead the Commerce Department, where he would succeed Gary Locke (who is succeeding John Huntsman as Ambassador to China).

Most media coverage has focused on Bryson's tenure as chairman and CEO of California energy company Edison International, and his co-founding of the Natural Resources Defense Council (back in 1970). But Bryson has held a different job since August 2008: Senior advisor at private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR).

Bryson joined KKR to focus on infrastructure investments, back when the firm was hoping to raise up to $4 billion for an infrastructure-focused fund. In the end, however, KKR Infrastructure only secured $500 million, and the guy hired to run infrastructure investing (George Bilicic) quickly left to rejoin his old firm (Lazard).

I asked KKR for information on what Bryson actually did for the firm, including what deals he might have worked on. Unfortunately, all I got was a statement from KKR Energy & Infrastructure chief Marc Lipschultz, saying that he has been "a valuable advisor to the firm," and "always had great insights into the world of government and business."

I assume that the Senate will have better luck, so long as Republicans don't simply follow through on their threat to block any Commerce nominee...

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About This Author
Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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