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Steven Rattner headed up the federal bailout of car maker and franchising firms General Motors and Chrysler in February 2009. The immediate question: should Chrysler be saved?
…private equity was Rattner’s forte. He made his living buying troubled and mismanaged companies, turning them around, and then taking them public again—and that’s exactly what the Obama Administration wanted him to do in Detroit. … In the past twenty-five years, private equity has risen from obscurity to become one of the most powerful forces in the American economy. Private-equity firms collectively make hundreds of billions of dollars in investments every year. The industry’s most prominent player, K.K.R., was by 2007 the fourth-largest employer in the world. Traditional investors, like Warren Buffett, scout for companies that the market has overlooked or undervalued, and buy stakes in them with an eye to the long term. Private-equity investors are activists. They acquire firms outright. Then they bring in their own specialists to “fix” the company. Typically, a private-equity firm plans to take its acquisition public again in three to five years, and the theory behind the enterprise is that buying, fixing, and reselling companies can be far more profitable than Buffett-style “buy and hold” investing.. [via Malcolm Gladwell’s book review in The New Yorker of Steven Rattner’s book Overhaul]
There was considerable feedback and votes by the staff to let Chrysler, the franchisor of thousands of auto dealerships die, but in the end it was voted by 6-3 to let it live. Five months later, Rattner’s job was complete.