Photo: Ben Hider/Getty Images

KKR on Friday disclosed a 6.3% stake in playpen operator Dave & Buster's (Nasdaq: PLAY), and said that it may engage with shareholders on transactions and changes to company management.

Why it matters: Big buyout firms have worked for years to become viewed as management friendly, eschewing hostile takeovers and explicit partnerships with activist investors. What KKR just announced feels like a significant divergence from that path.

  • Dave & Buster's shares are down 18.5% over the past year, closing Thursday at $42.04 for a market cap of around $1.28 billion.
  • KKR's filing sent shares up more than 11%, opening trading on Friday at $46.76.
  • Dave & Buster's, which was private-equity-owned before going public in 2014, also has nearly $1.9 billion of debt.

KKR formed a public equity strategy several years back, and reportedly earmarked more than $1 billion of its flagship buyout fund for the purpose of acquiring so-called "toehold" positions in listed companies.

  • However, the outside expectation was that these stakes would be smaller (toeholds are generally below 5%) and come without threats of hostility. Collaborative, not confrontational.
  • A source familiar with the situation tells me that KKR has a "good relationship" with management, and that the two sides have had "constructive dialog." The source adds that there is no internal talk of going hostile.
  • That may well be true, but it doesn't erase Friday morning's black-and-white threat to possibly pursue changes to Dave & Buster's management and its board of directors. If it looks like an activist and walks like an activist...

The bottom line: Certain activist firms have been encroaching on private equity's turf, moonlighting as buyout shops (hi Mr. Singer!) KKR looks to be returning the favor, although it's unclear how such efforts will impact its core, "management-friendly" business.

Go deeper: Private equity firms fear a Democrat topping Trump in 2020

Go deeper

Updated 45 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 33,137,748 — Total deaths: 998,372 — Total recoveries: 22,952,164Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 7,116,456 — Total deaths: 204,762 — Total recoveries: 2,766,280 — Total tests: 101,298,794Map.
  3. States: 3 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week
  4. Health: The childless vaccine. The long-term pain of the mental health pandemic
  5. World: India the second country after U.S. to hit 6 million cases
Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Big Tech's share of the S&P 500 reached record level in August

Expand chart
Reproduced from The Leuthold Group; Chart: Axios Visuals

The gap between the weighting of the five largest companies in the S&P 500 and the 300 smallest rose to the highest ever at the end of August, according to data from the Leuthold Group.

Why it matters: The concentration of wealth in a few massive U.S. tech companies has reached a scale significantly greater than it was before the dot-com bubble burst.

Fortune 100 companies commit $3.3 billion to fight racism and inequality

Data: Fortune 500, Axios analysis of company statements, get the data; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon, Naema Ahmed/Axios

Big businesses continue to push funding toward fighting inequality and racism, with the 100 largest U.S. companies' monetary commitments rising to $3.33 billion since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police earlier this year, according to an Axios analysis.

Why it matters: The continued pace of funding commitments shows that months after Floyd's death there remains pressure for the wealthiest corporations to put their money behind social issues and efforts.