NEW YORK – Businessman and philanthropist Alexander Navab passed away suddenly on July 7 at the age of 53.
A private equity professional, Navab was a Wall Street dealmaker, as the New York Times reported, and an active philanthropist supporting many causes, including his alma mater Columbia University as well as The Hellenic Initiative. He joined KKR in 1993 and was the Head of KKR’s Americas Private Equity business. Navab served as the Chair of the Americas Private Equity Investment Committee, and also as the Chair of the Americas Portfolio Management Committee, as well as serving on KKR’s Special Situations Investment Committee. Prior to joining KKR, Navab was with James D. Wolfensohn Incorporated where he was involved in mergers and acquisitions as well as corporate finance advisory work. From 1987 to 1989, he was with Goldman, Sachs & Co. where he worked in the Investment Banking Department. He received a BA with honors, Phi Beta Kappa, from Columbia College, and an MBA with High Distinction, Baker Scholar, Wolfe Award, from Harvard Business School. In 2011, Navab received the John Jay Award for distinguished professional achievement from Columbia College. In 2016, he was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Navab was actively involved in philanthropic, educational, community, and national organizations, serving as a member of the Board of Trustees at New York-Presbyterian Hospital; a member of the Board of Directors at The Robin Hood Foundation; a member of the Board of Visitors at Columbia College; Co-Chair of the National Council of American Enterprise Institute (AEI); a member of the Board of Trustees at The Buckley School in New York; a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; a member of the Board of Dean's Advisors at Harvard Business School; Co-Chair of the National Advisory Board at Youth I.N.C. (Improving Non-Profits for Children); and on the Executive Committee at The Hellenic Initiative- a non-profit organization supporting economic renewal in Greece through philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and economic investment.
Navab was honored in 2017 as the Executive of the Year by the Hellenic American Association for Professionals in Finance (HABA) at their 35th annual dinner. At the event, Navab spoke about his unique background as a Hellenic-Iranian-American whose parents met in New York, moved to Iran, where the family lived for 14 years, then left due to the Islamic Revolution, moving to Greece for two years before moving to the United States. Navab’s Greek mother, Tina was present at the event, along with his wife Mary Kathryn and daughter Arabella. His father, he mentioned, could not attend because he was in the hospital, but was doing fine and the family was going to visit him after the dinner.
After recounting the dramatic events of his young life, Navab said that for someone who witnessed such dislocation, immigration is one of the greatest things about the United States. He said, “You can come with a dream and still fulfill that dream,” noting how his family arrived with nothing and though his father was a doctor, the family had to start all over again. His parents instilled values in him and his three siblings, to work hard and take advantage of the opportunities this country offers. The importance of education was also central to their upbringing. Navab gave his advice for success in life. Rely on faith, value family, cultivate long-term friendships, embrace change, and give back to those in need, he said.
Navab was a Columbia University Trustee, alumnus, benefactor, and advisor. In addition to supporting athletics, Alex and his wife Mary Kathryn had recently established the Navab Fellowship Program, which provides annual funding for Columbia College students to pursue full-time summer internships. Navab left his mark on the worlds of finance and philanthropy, and will be missed. The New York Times quoted a statement by the President and Trustees of Columbia University, “We offer our condolences to Alex's wife, Mary Kathryn Navab, his children, his extended family, and all who feel his loss. His generosity, leadership, and devotion to his alma mater, and to making the world a better place, are an inspiration to us all.”
May his memory be eternal.