Monthly Archives: June 2008

John Gapper


My column this week is about the clever wheezes that private equity funds deployed to ensure that they keep control of companies they bought even in a downturn. Tony James, president of Blackstone, thinks this is good for society; I am not so sure. You can read it here and comment below.

John Gapper

I plan to write in my FT column this week about private equity buyouts and the aftermath of loose financing such as covenant-light loans and payment-in-kind bonds.

For those who cannot wait, here is the list of 10 tongue-in-cheek reasons given by David Rubenstein, a co-founder of the Carlyle Group, for why private equity is still a great career.

Mr Rubenstein included his list in a recent presentation on the industry. The public controversy surrounding private equity has clearly not made him lose his sense of humour.

His reasons are:

1. There is no educational requirement – anyone can get into the business, no barrier to entry.

2. You don’t have to keep time sheets or fill out insurance reimbursement forms.

3. Lack of clear skills or a high IQ is not a handicap – it may be a plus.

4. You get to hire lawyers and economists, the people who were smarter than you in college.

5. Your ability to make charitable contributions will get you invited to much higher class parties (and get your children into higher class colleges).

 Read more

John Gapper

Indian companies are on an acquisition spree in the developed world, with Tata Motors buying Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford and Vedanta Resources paying $2.6bn for the assets of Asarco, a US copper miner. But are companies from India and other developing nations paying too much?

Perhaps, and for an unusual reason in the M&A world, according to a new study by academics at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. They found that companies from developing countries often top auctions of western assets because of national pride. Read more

John Gapper

The death of Yves Saint Laurent is a reminder of how he revolutionised the lives of working women with the trouser suit.

Hillary Clinton certainly has reason to be grateful to Saint Laurent – and designers such as Liz Claiborne who followed him. Her devotion to the trouser suit (or pantsuit, as it is known in the US) has become a talking point in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Forty years later, it is difficult to recall the days when women had to be dressed in skirts or dresses in the office and there was an absolute sartorial divide between the sexes at work. Read more

John Gapper

Getting the title of your book into common parlance – as Malcolm Gladwell did with The Tipping Point and Sebastian Junger did with The Perfect Storm – is a good way to measure success in the publishing industry.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has now joined these luminaries with his bestseller The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. According to Bryan Appleyard in The Sunday Times, Taleb has secured a $4m advance for his next work, which is pretty good for a man who specialises in statistics and probability.

The title comes from the surprise dealt to Europeans when black swans were found in Australia. Guided by induction, they had believed that all swans were white. He uses this example to point out that unusual events do occur, despite the human propensity to discount them, and that some have a huge impact. Read more