He went on to become a founding member of Carlyle Mezzanine Partners, a $436 million fund at the D.C. buyout firm targeting middle-market companies. Gregg, then 30 years old, was one of the youngest team members. There were some clients that looked at him askance.
“As much as people will look for certain attributes that they believe denote success or quality, ultimately everybody can see how much money you took in, how well you managed it and how much value you delivered to your investors,” he said. “If you have a consistent track record, ultimately that trumps age, ethnicity and everything else.”
After three years at Carlyle, Gregg moved on to becoming a principal at Allied Capital. When the company was sold in 2010, he was ready to “be the lead portfolio manager and directly develop a track record, really be seen as the point person, putting together a portfolio and standing behind the returns of that portfolio.”
And Johnson offered him the chance to do just that as a co-founder of RLJ Credit Opportunity Fund, a division that provides financing to middle-market companies.
Jesse Burwell, 35 Vice president of investor
services, RLJ Cos.
Throughout his 20s, Jesse Burwell seized one opportunity after another to further his career in accounting. There was a stint at Deloitte & Touche as a senior auditor, time at Wachovia Securities as an analyst in the loan syndications group. And by the time Burwell reached 29, he was comfortably employed as a senior accountant at one of the largest private equity firms in the country, the Carlyle Group.
But he wanted to explore other facets of finance. It just so happened that one of his former colleagues at Carlyle, Ernita Thomas, had just taken on the role of controller at RLJ Cos. and was hiring.
“Jesse is a diligent and responsible worker. I noted these characteristics about him when we worked briefly together on a project while at the Carlyle Group,” Thomas said. “This is what encouraged me to reach out to bring him over to RLJ.”
Burwell was intrigued by the chance to be a part of a new venture. “Being in on the ground floor has allowed me to progress a little bit faster than I would have at a traditional firm that had been around for 30 or 40 years,” he said. “I’ve been able to do things outside of my discipline and gain some good experience.”
Corey Printup, 30 Vice president, RLJ Fixed Income
Corey Printup was a 24-year-old investment banker in 2006 when Johnson plucked him from Morgan Stanley to work at RLJ Private Equity. At the time, he had arranged or managed more than $17 billion in securities at the global giant.
Printup was drawn to Johnson’s aim of “putting together young minority talent to have a ground-up opportunity at a private equity fund.”
At an age when most of his peers were holding onto the lower rungs of the corporate ladder, Printup was leading the creation of a $30 million enterprise fund to finance businesses in Liberia. He traveled back and forth to the West African country for five years during which time he oversaw the development of luxury lodging RLJ Kendeja Resort & Villas.
After the project was up and running, Printup was tasked with taking charge of RLJ Fixed Income in January. The start-up focuses on fixed-income investments — whereby the maturity and interest payments are fixed —within government, corporate, federal agency and municipal bond markets.
“Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley will give you a solid foundation. At those type of shops your ideas will be heard, but you’re not going to have anything from the execution standpoint,” he said. “Where here, not only can you generate the ideas, but you’re also going to be given the leeway to execute them.”