The interview came in November 2009, just a year or so after Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns begged Wall Street for forgiveness while leaving Main Street in shambles. And Rowan’s advice rides off of that bankrupt dynamic, echoing Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: “Mostly, as I’ve said, we see the best returns following chaos.”
We never said it was good advice… unless you’re going into the private equity business. With a $70,000 donation to Restore Our Future this past month, totaling $135,000 over the past few months, Gowan is banking on his buyout brother in arms storming the White House.
As with the rest of Romney’s top donors, especially the ones we’ve covered so far in this ‘Mitt Loves N.Y.,’ Gowan ranks high on those infamous billionaire lists Forbes puts together for the rest of us to ogle in despair. This time around, our subject reached #303 on the 400 list with a value of $1.5 billion this past March.
His wealth comes from a little company he started 23 years ago called Apollo Global Management up on West 57th Street – an equity company that boasts a $51 billion worth in assets. In the same business as Bain Capital, Rowan and Co. made billions the ol’ fashioned way: buying companies with “a relatively small portion of equity and a relatively large portion of outside debt financing,” which is also known as a leveraged buyout (this term has been more or less replaced by ‘private equity’).
Using that logic, the “chaos” remark makes complete sense: when companies are failing, the equity game is a buyer’s market. This is what landed Rowan a comfy spot on the Director’s Board at the hotel-selling Wyndham International, suitcase-selling Samsonite U.S.A. and a handful(s) of other high-brow companies.
Rowan’s Apollo Management went public in March 2011, boosting profits and its already high IPO value. But Apollo was born from the ashes of another. Drexel Burnham Lambert was the archetypal equity company of early New Wall Street fame that was, at one time during the Reagan Era, equally as powerful a player as Goldman Sachs is today. In 1986, the buyout shop had made $545 million – we’re not mathematicians or anything but counter in inflation and you’ve got yourself billions.
It tanked around the time of the Savings and Loans Crisis in the late 1980s, when plagues of insider trading and junk bond trading became rampant (search: Gordan Gekko, Oliver Stone, Wall Street). Forced into bankruptcy in February 1990, the company flipper and his fellow Lambert colleagues, Leon Black and Joshua Harris, jumped ship from Burnham and started Apollo just months after.
When they see chaos, they know how to handle it.
(The Voice reached out to Apollo Management for information regarding Rowan’s connections to Romney. We were given no response).