NEW YORK -- Despite a host of investment rivals, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. here is regarded as the top of the line by industry observers. "KKR is like an alchemist who creates gold out of base metals," Jonathan Ziegler, an analyst with Salomon Bros. here, declared. "It's able to take two plus two and make it equal five. "Fred Meyer, Safeway and Stop & Shop were all good companies that needed some fine-tuning, and KKR knew where to go to find people who could make those assets ...

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