“This was not a private equity investment,” Rattner, a co-founder of Quadrangle Group LLC, said at the DBR Restructuring and Turnaround Summit.That’s because the motives of the auto task force were wildly different than those of private equity investors. Instead of aiming to generate a profit, the goal was to lose as little taxpayer money as possible – and to avoid a meltdown in the Midwest.
Steven Rattner may have been hired by the government to turn around the U.S. auto industry in part for his private equity and Wall Street expertise. But the turnaround of General Motors Co. and Chrysler bore little resemblance to a typical PE investment.
“There was a systemic risk not unlike the systemic risk of Lehman Brothers,” Rattner said. The auto industry “could have brought the whole Midwest down with it.”
Given those goals, Rattner thus far is pleased with how the turnarounds have turned out. On GM, he said, the U.S. government’s investment is currently worth between $40 billion and $45 billion, versus the roughly $50 billion that it spent bailing out the company.
Still, Rattner’s private equity inclinations came out at times during the keynote address, especially when he discussed how poorly the company was run before the government intervened.
“This was one of the worst-managed companies I’ve ever seen in my life of any size,” Rattner said, adding that he’s happy with the management team that he helped to install. “I wake up every morning grateful that Ed Whitacre is there.”
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