Will Hollywood ever turn its mind to the question of the current global private equity explosion, a la Michael Douglas and Wall Street? There’s certainly plenty of snippets emerging about the excesses, such as last week’s extravagant $4 million birthday party for Steven Schwarzman, boss of the world’s biggest private equity firm, Blackstone.
Such largesse by the leaders of the private equity club in New York won’t go down well when Qantas aircraft maintenance staff in Australia start getting terminated.
The private equity industry is clearly developing an image problem and it doesn’t help when investment bankers themselves start turning the guns on them.
One such person is former Macquarie Banker John Green, who retired from the Millionaire Factory after 13 years last July and is now writing screenplays and attempting to join that well known closed shop – the business commentariat.
Green is telling anyone who’ll listen about the dangers of private equity and has even penned a cracking satirical piece for the enjoyment of Crikey readers. It begins as follows:
When the fuss over the flag died down after Australia Day, a club of four private equity investors were relieved. But more recent news got this high-profile group scrambling again. When last week, astronomers turned NASA’s space telescope on Southern Cross star Beta, revealing a sister, they unwittingly unmasked a secret source of the privateer’s profits.
Crikey can reveal that sewing a new, seventh star on the ensign was already a key facet of the plan to take the flag private, but the flag’s new wave of public glory has the consortium reeling. “This is a unique asset. We could extract far more value from it by keeping it under wraps, where it belongs,” a buyout spokesman said.
The group, Ozflag Partners, draws together an unlikely quartet of Pauline Hanson, Sheik Taj El-Din al-Hilaly, the Australian Republican Movement and News Corporation.
The venerable Financial Times of London ran a Green piece criticising private equity last week and this follows earlier efforts in The SMH and The AFR.
The Australian media could do well to score a few more genuine players as business commentators and Green’s cutting comments are the last thing Macquarie Bank needs as it attempts to persuade an increasingly sceptical political class about the merits of taking Qantas private.
John M Green writes: As a first-time contributor to Crikey, I’d like to thank you for publishing my satirical piece but I’ve sorely just learnt how “you beauty!” is truly in the eyes of the Crikey editor, not the writer. It’s a free country, luckily, so if Crikey finds it useful to flourish about investment bankers turning their guns on people, it can, even if Crikey got the wrong target. To headline my piece as “from inside Macquarie Bank” is not just a flourish, it’s a fantasy. As you correctly note in your cover piece, I haven’t worked there for months. Further, I’d like to suggest that a more sober read of my private equity pieces (those you mention from the AFR and the FT) reveals I am not Chicken Little spruiking the dangers of either Macquarie or private equity bringing the sky, or even aeroplanes, down. They might not like everything I’m saying, that’s probable, but the essence of my argument is not as an enemy of private equity (where I have some investments), nor of Macquarie Bank (where my continued admiration is evidenced by my ongoing share ownership). It’s as a believer in the importance of the sustainability of the public company model. My core theme is that private equity’s current ascendancy, notably in the “taking private” deal, highlights worrying flaws in the public equity model. Finally, in case you missed it, the “flag” I was waving in my satirical piece for Crikey was intended as a metaphor for “the public company”.