Steven Lawrence Rattner (born July 5, 1952) is an American financier who served as lead adviser to the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry in 2009 for the Obama administration. He is currently Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Willett Advisors LLC, the private investment group that manages billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's personal and philanthropic assets. He continues to be involved in public policy matters as the economic analyst for MSNBC's Morning Joe, and as a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times Op-Ed page.
Before joining the Obama Administration, he was a managing principal of the Quadrangle Group, a private equity investment firm that specialized in the media and communications industries. Prior to co-founding Quadrangle, he was an investment banker at Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, and Lazard Freres & Co., where he rose to deputy chairman and deputy chief executive officer. Rattner began his career as a journalist for The New York Times.
|Born||Steven Lawrence Rattner
July 5, 1952
Great Neck, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Brown University|
Rattner was born to a Jewish family in New York City, the son of Selma and George Rattner. His father was the president of Paragon Paint and Varnish Corporation and is a playwright who has produced several Off Broadway plays; his mother was an architecture preservationist and vice president of the Victorian Society of America. Rattner has two siblings: Donald Rattner and Susan Rattner. Rattner was raised in the suburb of Great Neck, where he attended local public schools. He received his A.B. with honors in economics from Brown University in 1974 and was awarded the Harvey Baker Fellowship. While at Brown, he served as editor-in-chief of The Brown Daily Herald in 1973.
Upon graduating from Brown, Rattner was hired in Washington, D.C., as a news clerk to 'New York Times columnist and former executive editor James Reston. After a year, he moved to New York as a reporter to cover business, energy, and urban affairs, becoming friends with colleague Paul Goldberger. In 1977, he was sent back to Washington to cover the energy crisis. At the unusually young age of 27, he became the paper's chief Washington economic correspondent, where he became close friends with future Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., and dated Judith Miller. He concluded his service to The New York Times with a two-year stint in London as its European economic correspondent.
At the end of 1982, Rattner left The New York Times and was recruited by Roger Altman to join the investment bank Lehman Brothers as an associate. After Lehman was sold to American Express in 1984, he followed his boss Eric Gleacher and several colleagues to Morgan Stanley, where he founded the firm's communications group. In 1989, after Morgan Stanley filed for an initial public offering, he joined Lazard as a general partner and completed various deals for large media conglomerates such as Viacom and Comcast. Alongside Felix Rohatyn, Rattner became Lazard's top rainmaker in the 1990s. Michel David-Weill named him the firm's Deputy Chairman and Deputy Chief Executive in 1997.
In March 2000, Rattner and three Lazard partners including Joshua Steiner left the firm and founded the Quadrangle Group, which initially focused on investing a $1 billion media-focused private equity fund. Early investors in Quadrangle included Sulzberger, Mort Zuckerman, and Merrill Lynch. Headquartered in the Seagram Building, Quadrangle grew to manage more than $6 billion across several business lines, including private equity, distressed securities, and hedge funds. The firm also hosted an annual gathering for media executives called Foursquare, where speakers included Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg. In 2008, the firm's asset management division announced it had been selected to invest the personal assets of Rattner's close friend, the billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
From his tenure with The New York Times in Washington D.C., Rattner developed a lifelong interest in economic policy, which drew him to politics and public service. In the mid-1990s, he began to work actively on behalf of Democratic candidates, beginning with President Bill Clinton. While it was rumored that Rattner would join a Democratic administration, he did not do so until after the election of President Barack Obama.
In February 2009, with General Motors and Chrysler insolvent, Rattner was appointed counselor and lead auto adviser to the United States Secretary of the Treasury, a role informally referred to in the media as the "car czar". He soon assembled a team that grew to 14 professionals to address the financial problems of the two auto companies.
Reporting to both Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, the head of the National Economic Council, Rattner's team developed a plan to save both the two manufacturers and related suppliers and finance companies. The plan involved a total government (i.e., taxpayer) investment of $82 billion in the sector, coupled with controlled bankruptcies for the two auto companies, as well as new management for both, and the closure of 2,000 automobile dealerships and loss of tens of thousands of related jobs. Controversially, during the negoitations with the bond holders, Rattner threatened their professional reputations in order to get them on board with the controlled bankruptcies
Rattner later stated that the toughest decision for President Obama about the two auto companies was whether to save Chrysler. There was, however, no disagreement about asking GM CEO Richard Wagoner to step aside.
By July 2009, both automakers had emerged from bankruptcy, had new management and were on their way to profitability. At that time, Rattner left Washington and returned to private life in New York.
After leaving the government, Rattner wrote Overhaul: An Insider's Account of the Obama Administration's Emergency Auto Rescue, his New York Times best-selling account of the automotive industry crisis of 2008-2010.
He has continued to speak publicly on auto-related matters as well as broader economic issues. Early in 2011, he began contributing a monthly column to the Financial Times on subjects ranging from the Greek crisis to the U.S. budget deficit. He also became the economic analyst for the MSNBC news show, Morning Joe. And in June 2011, he was named a contributing writer to The New York Times Op-Ed page, publishing his first column on how government policies drive up corn prices.
In 2005, Quadrangle made payments to private placement agent Hank Morris to help Quadrangle raise money for its second buyout fund. Morris had come highly recommended to Rattner from U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. Morris was also the chief political advisor to Alan Hevesi, the New York State Comptroller and manager of the New York State Common Retirement Fund (CRF), which invests in many private equity funds. Morris told Rattner he could increase the size of the CRF investment in Quadrangle's second buyout fund. Rattner agreed to pay Morris a placement fee of 1.1% of any investments greater than $25 million from the CRF.
In 2009, Quadrangle and a dozen other investment firms, including the Carlyle Group, were investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for their hiring of Morris. The SEC viewed the payments as "kickbacks" in order to receive investments from the CRF since Morris was also a consultant to Hevesi. Quadrangle paid $7 million in April 2010 to settle the SEC investigation, and Rattner personally settled in November for $6.2 million without admitting or denying any wrongdoing.
The case drew significant media attention when Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Attorney General, demanded more severe penalties from Rattner than any of the other firms or individuals who had hired Morris as a placement agent. Rattner was once a major fundraiser for Democratic Party candidates including Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, but Rattner had repeatedly passed on fundraising for Cuomo despite Cuomo's past attempts to cultivate Rattner's support.
In an appearance on the Charlie Rose Show, Rattner asserted that hiring Morris as a placement agent was "legal then, legal now, and done properly." He explained he was willing to settle on reasonable terms as he had done with the SEC, but questioned whether Cuomo was motivated by the "facts" of the case and called Cuomo's demands "close to extortion."
On December 30, 2010, Rattner reached a settlement with Cuomo to pay $10 million in restitution but no fines or penalties. He was not prohibited from continuing to protest his innocence.
Rattner has served as a board member or trustee of a number of civic and philanthropic organizations, including the Educational Broadcasting Corporation as chairman, Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City as chairman, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brown University, Brookings Institution and the New America Foundation. Rattner is also member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was an early investor in Current TV, the liberal-leaning network founded by Al Gore.
In 1986, he married Maureen White in a interfaith service at the Lotos Club in Manhattan. White served for five years as finance chair for the Democratic National Committee and is now a senior advisor on humanitarian issues in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the U.S. Department of State. The couple spent a night in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House in 1995 upon the invitation of President Bill Clinton. They have four grown children, live in a Manhattan apartment, spend summers on Martha's Vineyard, and own a horse farm in North Salem.