Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Carlyle Short on Chinese Guanxi

The Carlyle Group lost a Chinese medical research company due to lack of "guanxi", connections in English. It's rare for the politically connected private equity underwriter to lose deals in such a fashion. Co-founder William Conway likes a playing field tilted in Carlyle's favor.

Carlyle has the stable to steer deals and garner big government business in many parts of the world. They had the horses to sell American airport operations to Dubai Aerospace without a peep from the media. Landmark Aviation and Standard Aero sold between the out roars over Dubai Ports World's purchase of U.S. port operations and the Dubai Bourse buying a chunk of NASDAQ.

When the Chinese clinical research firm backed out of the deal, they sent an e-mail to Carlyle with "pray forgive". Carlyle sued for $206 million.

It's not the first time Carlyle mobilized teams of attorneys. They sued Tenet Health on behalf of affiliate LifeCare Hospitals. The two firms settled liability for Memorial Medical Center after Hurricane Katrina. Thirty four patients died, 10 at Tenet's MMC & 24 in LifeCare's LTAC unit which rented space in Memorial. The settlement is secret.

LifeCare lawyers blamed rogue clinicians, yet a grand jury failed to indict Dr. Anna Pou. Carlyle legal experts then pointed the finger at the feds. Their novel claim suggests LifeCare patients became wards of the federal government as soon as FEMA evacuation teams set up in New Orleans. This defense is laughable to health professionals. How does this pass as sound management or legal practice? Only in the world of avoiding responsibility or protecting one's good name.

Carlyle's not having the guanxi to close the China deal could be a mirror experience. Is there an image to see?