David M. Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, was named the sixth chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday.
Rubenstein, 60, of Bethesda, Md., was elected to help oversee the center's finances and fundraising beginning in May, though he plans no major changes, he said.
"I went into public service and was inspired to do so in part by President Kennedy when I was a young man," Rubenstein said. "The Kennedy Center is kind of a living memorial to him, and to some extent it's a payback for what he did to inspire me."
He also sits on the boards of the Smithsonian Institution and New York's Lincoln Center, as well as Duke University and more than a dozen others.
Rubenstein said he will step down from his role as vice chairman of Lincoln Center, to which he donated $10 million last year, to devote his attention to the Kennedy Center. And there will be no conflict with his role at the Smithsonian, he said.
Washington-based Carlyle Group is one of the biggest U.S. private equity firms. Rubenstein is managing director of the firm, which owns Dunkin' Donuts and Hertz, among hundreds of other companies.
He previously practiced law and served as an assistant to President Jimmy Carter. President George W. Bush appointed him to the Kennedy Center board in 2004.
"I do think the performing arts bring people together in a way that almost nothing else does," especially when Washington is divided by partisan politics, said Rubenstein, a Baltimore native.
He succeeds Stephen Schwarzman, who has been chairman since May 2004.
The bulk of the Kennedy Center's $165 million annual budget must be raised privately, though it receives some federal funding because of its designation as a presidential memorial.
"The Kennedy Center is in very good financial shape," Rubenstein said. "I have no great reform program. I just want to make sure it continues to be as excellent as it has been."