By Geraldine Fabrikant
The opinions expressed are her own.
Last spring, several months after Steven Rattner, a cofounder of the private equity firm Quadrangle Partners, settled separate charges totaling $16.2 million that related to a kickback scheme involving New York state pension funds, he hosted a dinner at his sprawling upper east side co-op overlooking New York’s Central Park.
Always an avid courtier of the media, among the guests that night were Charlie Rose, Financial Times U.S. managing editor Gillian Tett, journalists Alexis Gelber and Mark Whitaker and literary agent Amanda Urban as well as Rattner’s friend and champion Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The dinner came in the wake of his very public battles with former attorney general Andrew Cuomo; a settlement with the government; a series of negative stories in the press; and an ongoing battle with Quadrangle Group, the firm he helped to found. Among other issues, Rattner charged that Quadrangle had held seized money that was owed to him when he left the firm to work as the car czar. Neither Mr. Rattner nor Quadrangle would comment for the story. The case is currently in arbitration (see editor’s note below)litigation. In April 2010 when Quadrangle settled with the Attorney General’s office over the case of attracting pension fund money, it said that Rattner conduct was “inappropriate, wrong and unethical.” But that battle seemed well in the past to one attendee the evening who said the dinner felt like a coming out party reflecting Rattner’s determination to put the past behind him. It was business as usual, or as one guest recalled it: “the typical Upper East Side dinner party,” filled as it was with brand-name power brokers.
How exactly does one come back from being publicly dragged through the mud? Why do some from the land of the formerly disgraced manage to launder their reputations, while others disappear? Part of the answer is that you’ve got to work at it, and–with the possible exception of Michael Milken, the disgraced junk bond guru, or Eliot Spitzer, the former governor who resigned in the wake of a prostitution scandal—few have worked as assiduously as Rattner has to put themselves back in the limelight. He asked to write for both the New York Times and the Financial Times and actively promoted his book “Overhaul” chronicling his role in bailing out the auto companies.
By many measures, he is succeeding. Rattner, 59, now contributes regularly to both publications . He is frequently on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and has appeared on The Charlie Rose show and other TV programs. But most important, he is involved in managing the fortune of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Last year it was reported that the Mayor had shifted about $5 billion of assets that were being managed by Quadrangle to a group of former Quadrangle employees led by Alice Ruth who formed Willett Advisors. Mr. Rattner works actively with that team. Forbes this year estimated the Mayor’s total net worth at $19.5 billion.