Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bloomberg Shifts $5 Billion Out of Friend’s Firm

Entirely quoted from the article posted on the NYT website :
Published: February 19, 2010

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York has decided to remove his fortune from a private equity firm founded by his longtime friend, 10 months after that firm became embroiled in a scandal involving the state pension fund.

Librado Romero/The New York Times, left; Jin Lee/Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg, left, mayor of New York, and his friend, Steven Rattner, founder of Quadrangle Capital Partners.

The mayor is shifting about $5 billion from Quadrangle into a new investment firm devoted solely to his interest and that of his charitable foundation. About a dozen employees of Quadrangle will join the new enterprise, suggesting the move is not being driven by a desire to change investment strategy. According to a letter that Quadrangle sent to its investors on Friday, the mayor was seeking privacy and flexibility for his investments.

In assets, Quadrangle will shrink by more than half, leaving the firm only private equity investments in the media and telecommunications industries. The setback caps a year of struggle for Quadrangle, after Steven Rattner — the founder who is Mr. Bloomberg’s friend — departed last year to run the Obama administration’s automobile task force. Mr. Rattner was linked to the New York pension fund investigation within months of that appointment and stepped down from his government role last summer.

No charges have been brought against the firm or Mr. Rattner by the attorney general of New York or the Securities and Exchange Commission, which are both investigating Quadrangle’s past dealings with the New York state pension fund.

Mayor Bloomberg’s private fortune — built around his media business, Bloomberg L.P. — fueled his improbable victory in the 2001 mayoral campaign and helped secure a close re-election last fall.

His decision to relocate his money may fuel speculation about his political ambitions: he is considered a potential candidate in the presidential campaign of 2012. If he were to run, he would undoubtedly finance the campaign himself, at a staggering cost. His aides previously put the price tag at $1 billion.

The mayor’s decision to disentangle himself from Quadrangle ends a chapter in a partnership that elevated Mr. Rattner into greater prominence in government and business, and that allowed Mr. Bloomberg to take bigger risks with his overall fortune, which is estimated at $15 billion, including his large stake in the media company.

Since leaving government, Mr. Rattner has been writing a book on the automobile industry, scheduled for a fall release, and has not said if he is looking to return to finance.

It is unclear whether Mr. Rattner might work with the mayor again. As the pension investigation unfolded, Mr. Bloomberg has steadfastly defended Mr. Rattner. At the time, the mayor praised his work and called him “a great public servant.” Initially, the mayor said he had no plans to take his investments elsewhere.

Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Rattner remain close, frequently dining together and speaking by telephone, according to mutual friends.

Questions about Mr. Rattner’s involvement with the state pension fund emerged when the S.E.C. filed a case against middlemen who helped investment firms like Quadrangle garner business from the state. One of the middlemen was producing a movie called “Chooch,” and a company owned by Quadrangle made a deal to distribute that low-budget film, according to the S.E.C., which was investigating kickbacks.

Spokesmen for Quadrangle and Mr. Rattner declined to comment.

A spokesman for the mayor, Jason Post, said: “The fact that the mayor will be hiring the same team Quadrangle put together to manage these funds shows how pleased he is with their performance, which has been excellent. He has nothing but good things to say about the job Quadrangle has done.”

Mr. Post said that the mayor’s decision to move his money out of Quadrangle was unrelated to the state pension fund investigation.

Quadrangle has spent the last year trying to refashion itself without Mr. Rattner and focus on private equity. Investors in one of the firm’s funds voted last spring to allow the firm to continue making new investments, even though they had an option to withdraw their capital when Mr. Rattner left.

Mr. Rattner cut his ties with Quadrangle when he became a special adviser to the Treasury Department, though he still had substantial money invested with the firm. Mr. Rattner is a prominent Democratic fund-raiser, and seemed to relish the return to Washington, where he began his career as a reporter for The New York Times.

Mayor Bloomberg accounted for a substantial part of Quadrangle’s business, but because he paid lower fees than other clients, his business was less profitable for the firm.

The mayor’s selection of Quadrangle in 2008 to manage his investments was unexpected: at the time, the firm was known for brokering and investing in media deals, not as a money manager. When the firm created a new division to handle Mr. Bloomberg’s money, called Quadrangle Asset Management, it had just one client: Mr. Bloomberg.

Quadrangle recruited Alice Ruth, who had managed the personal fortune of Gordon Moore, Intel’s co-founder, to run the unit. Ms. Ruth will join the mayor’s new money management office.

Under guidelines approved by New York City’s conflicts of interest board, the mayor’s investment portfolio is managed like a blind trust, though he retains control and access to certain investment decisions, and receives regular updates on its performance.

Quadrangle’s private equity business has remained separate from the asset management unit. The firm’s first private equity fund, raised in 2000, has already returned the full amount to its investors and retains stakes in several companies. The firm’s second fund, raised in 2005, has about $500 million left to invest and was up 19 percent last year, according to the investor letter.

Despite his reputation as a financial wizard, Mr. Bloomberg did not fare particularly well in the stock market in 2008. His tax returns, abridged for presentation to the news media, showed that he lost millions on his investments as the entire market plunged, including those managed by Quadrangle.

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