The video above comes from Texas Energy Future Holdings, the joint-venture partnership set up by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and the Texas Pacific Group to fund their acquisition of the Texas energy company TXU. They also have a snappy, graphics laden website called TexasEnergyFuture.com.
We’ve run a lot of stories about the online public relations campaigns of Pirate Capital but until now haven’t touch on the phenomenon of political campaign style advertisements in the TXU deal.
We were wondering who was behind the turn to the public airwaves in order to win sympathy for the buyout. Unfortunately, we didn’t get very far in our inquiries with Texas Energy Future Holdings.
“The investors felt the need to let the public know about the transaction,” Jeff Eller told us twice when we asked about who planned the advertising campaign and how the idea was first hatched.
This morning’s Financial Times reports that Bonderman didn’t fare too well when confronted by Dallas mayor Laura Miller during a panel discussion at Milken Institute's annual conference in Los Angeles.
In matters of substance, I would say that Mr Bonderman won on points. But Ms Miller and a member of the audience managed to rile him enough to concede a hostage to fortune. I concluded that the senior partners of private equity firms, who are under the spotlight around the world, still have much to learn about how to behave adroitly in public.
The turning moment of the discussion came, the FT reports, when Bonderman faced a question from an environmentally concerned audience member.
So why did he lose his cool when a self-righteous man from the audience demanded to know whether he felt an ethical responsibility to cease contributing to global warming? "You and others who are absolutists tend to be wrong almost always, in every event, at any time," Mr Bonderman snapped back, promptly losing the audience's sympathy.
It was an ingenue's error. A smile lit up Ms Miller's face and she said: "That was a really interesting answer." No smart politician would have been caught losing his temper with a critic in that way, especially not on camera. As they have learned, in the age of YouTube, one reckless moment can doom them.
Like the male leads who clash with sparky women in Hollywood films, Mr Bonderman is charming but arrogant. I suspect that is true of the heads of other private equity firms. Who might not be with their stellar financial records? But it is no longer tactically wise to show it and the sooner they learn that the better it will be for them and their investors.
We hadn’t seen the video of the debate. So we asked Jeff Eller about it. Was it televised somewhere?
“It wasn’t a debate, it was a panel discussion, and to the best of our knowledge it wasn’t broadcast anywhere,” he said.
So was the "panel discussion" broadcast or not? Does anyone have the video? We haven’t been able to track it down anywhere. Send what you know to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Private equity needs more charm