Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What Makes David Rubenstein Squirm?

How do you get Carlyle Group's David Rubenstein to promise to make up $20 million in losses?

It might help if your ex-wife runs a powerful, make that very powerful, politically connected internet site.

The very wealthy Michael Huffington put $20 million into Carlyle Capital Corporation, a Channel Islands investment vehicle which was managed by Carlyle Group. It blew up during last year's crisis days. Huffington lost all $20 million.

So concerned was Carlyle's co-founder David Rubenstein about the Huffington losses that he personally flew to Boston to meet with Huffington. According to a Huffington lawsuit (via PEU Report):

In May 2008, Rubenstein went to Boston to personally apologize for the losses and explain how they happened, according to the lawsuit. Rubenstein, however, said that his Carlyle partners would not let him cover Huffington's losses. Instead, Rubenstein said Huffington would have the opportunity to invest with Carlyle in the future without paying fees. They shook hands on it. "I guarantee you that you will get your money back," the suit quotes Rubenstein telling Huffington the next day over the phone.
Either Rubenstein has totally lost it, or he is very scared of Huffington.

Huffington supplied nearly 3% of the initial equity. Did Rubenstein run around to the other 97% of investors and promise them that he would "guarantee" they would get their money back? I think not.

Rubenstein is acting around like a spooked cat here. Talk to any stockbroker who had to deal with customers who lost big last year and it was a daily occurrence to deal with very upset, yelling screaming, customers. You have to deal with it, but you can't guarantee you will get the client his money back. That's an amateur move made by a broker that can't deal with the pressure of losing a client's money. But here we are with super operator Rubenstein acting like an amateur.

Was the threat of a lawsuit enough to cause Rubenstein into panic mode or could the very media sensitive Rubenstein have been scared of negative coverage emerging from Huffington's ex-wife?

Someone apparently talked Rubenstein down from the ledge, since Huffington is now suing Carlyle and presumably Rubenstein is not making anymore guarantees, but it is interesting to see what makes David squirm.

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