Sunday, September 12, 2004

BONO'S NEW FRIENDS: You'll have heard, no doubt, of Bono's new venture capital adventure, with the singer sticking cash into Elevation Partners. It might seem kind of curious for someone who makes much of his commitment to relieve the burden of debt in the Third World suddenly popping up hanging out with investment bankers - it's like an animal rights campaigner suddenly inviting the badger baiters round for a meal. (At the end of 1976, USD75billion of the non-OPEC least developed countries' debt was with commercial banks, USD45bn of which was held by American finanical institutions). Even if you don't think there's anything wrong with simultaneously calling for overseas debt to be set aside while wading into the investment market yourself, you might wonder about the sort of people you're dealing with.

So, who else is joining him in this exciting new opportunity? Well, Private Equity Week reports that Bret Pearlman's on board. Pearlman has, hitherto, been a senior managing executive with The Blackstone Group, a company who are very cosy with Kissinger Associates, Inc, Henry Kissinger's consulting firm. Blackstone were appointed to be Enron's principal financial advisors "with regard to its financial restructuring." Wonder how that's going. And Kissinger, of course, has a rap sheet as long as a long monkey's arm: Christopher Hitchens could fill in some blanks for you.

Also onboard is Roger MacNamee, who previously was at Integral Capital Partners. Amongst ICP's investments was Rambus Inc, bollocked by the FTC in 2002 for "deliberately engaging in a pattern of anticompetitive acts and practices that served to deceive an industry-wide standard-setting organization" - in other words, they participated in an open standards project while simultaneously attempting to patent a proprietary standard behind everyone's back. Of course, you can't really blame the company's backers for that, can you?

Merrill Lynch has been hired to act as placement agents for Elevation Partners. Back in 2001, Merrill Lynch were found to have been promoting stocks to investors while ridiculing them in private. In a nice piece of circular motion, one of those stocks is believed to be Enron.

But, of course, none of these murky pasts are reasons not to do business with people. After all, what would be the other option for Bono? Not drawing down the healthy rewards for being part of the Financial Services Industry? Not being invited to all those lunches and suppers and coporate jollies? Unthinkable.

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