Advancing a Free Society

Predator v Wealth Creator … Or Not?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15081234

"Are you on the side of the wealth creators or the asset strippers?" Ed Milliband asked the Labour Party conference (September 27, 2011).

Milliband tells a morality tale with two sides. On the good side are the producers, who "train, invest, invent, and sell." On the bad side are "the predators ... just interested in the fast buck, taking what they can out of the business." The example is "what a private equity firm did to the Southern Cross care homes. Stripping assets for a quick buck and treating tens of thousands of elderly people like commodities to be bought and sold. They may not have sold their own grandmothers for a fast buck. But they certainly sold yours."

In reality, the Southern Cross story is not one of asset stripping. There are two ways to think about this, one simple and one more complicated, but they lead to the same conclusion.

Here's the simple story. In 2004 Blackstone, a private equity firm, bought Southern Cross for £160 million. When Blackstone sold its last stake in 2007, Southern Cross was profitable, solvent, and worth £770 million. This was a story of asset growth, not assets stripped.

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