Thursday, February 5, 2009

Carlyle Group's Rubenstein Wines at SuperReturn

Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein has as much contempt for the public as his purchased politicians. He lamented treatment of private equity at the SuperReturn meeting in Berlin. He was there to bury Edscha, Carlyle's bankrupt German auto parts maker After the memorial service, Mr. Rubenstein answered questions for Rhea Wessel of the New York Times.

On protectionism: The most protectionist country in the world is the United States, he declared. “It says something, and then you have a situation like Dubai Ports, which is very embarrassing.”

Does Mr. Rubenstein not remember Carlyle's sale of fifty North American airport operations to Dubai Aerospace? He sold Landmark Aviation and Standard Aero to a Dubai firm with no embarrassing media coverage or political attention. One failure of a theory requires its modification.

On private equity’s relationship with the government: Mr. Rubenstein, whose firm is based in Washington, said he tried to stay away from lobbying for many years, but it might have been a mistake given the lack of goodwill toward the industry. Private equity is “behind the eight ball” in its effort to convince governments that it does something good, he said, adding that he has now hired a team to conduct government affairs for his company.

Carlyle needs lobbying? It's a Pennsylvania Avenue revolving door. There's plenty of goodwill in the Capital and White House for Mr. Rubenstein's firm. The connections are many. CIA nominee Leon Panetta spoke at Carlyle's 2008 annual investors meeting. He netted $28,000.

The public doesn't like private equity's insider influence and politicians catering to the big money boys. While the Senate Finance Committee loads up $25 billion in tax breaks for private equity, there's no sign of Obama's waiving IRA interest penalties for citizens trying to save their house.

What's the cure for private equity underwriters (PEU's) during this difficult time? The Wall Street Journal says it's an essay and a deal. Both are bribes. Mr. Rubenstein clearly knows how to purchase influence, but he's supremely bad at selling PEU's to people outside the beltway.