January 21, 2008
Public Protests on Private Equity
Posted by Garry Jenkins

      

Well, if we needed any more evidence that private equity has gone mainstream, we got some on Friday, Jan. 18.  At the Wharton Private Equity conference, the opening keynote address by David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and managing partner of the Carlyle Group (a former lawyer, by the way), was disrupted by union protestors upset about Carlyle’s recent (three weeks ago) buyout of Manor Care, a chain of nursing homes.  You can read the Philadelphia Inquirer story here.  Of course, Carlyle—known for its deep connections with prominent political leaders—has been a target of critics for years.  But this seems new.

The Service Employees International Union, which seems to be behind this protest, has the private equity world firmly in its sights.  Evidently, last August, the Union traveled to the Hamptons where—borrowing a tactic used in the 2004 election by the grassroots group Billionaires for Bush—protestors dressed up as billionaires and expressed mock opposition to raising taxes on private equity fund managers.  HT: Dealbook.

When I worked for a law firm (late 1990s and early 2000s), I specialized (about 50% of my practice) in representing private equity fund sponsors, but at that time the private equity world was still relatively unknown.  Back then, business school students dreamed of jobs with i-banks and consulting firms.  Today’s b-school “students are scrambling to prostrate themselves at the private equity altar,” according to Business Week (at least in 2007, not sure about 2008).  And now the Wharton Private Equity conference attracts protestors.  Gee things sure have changed. 

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