Clark gets $1.2 million for providing access
Title: Wes Clark Wins! (On Wall Street)
Date January 26, 2004
From the article:
- On Jan. 20, just a day after the caucuses, bankers tell FORTUNE, Clark made about $1.2 million in paper profit on his investment in Messer Griesheim, when the private German maker of industrial gases agreed to sell most of its assets to rival Air Liquide. While the $3.3 billion deal went largely unnoticed in the U.S., it was the best investment Clark ever made. And it barely cost him a dime—thanks to a low-interest, "non-recourse" loan from Goldman Sachs, which insulated Clark (a Messer director since August 2001) from any personal exposure. "Was he smiling yesterday?" wondered a Goldman executive, just hours after the Euro-deal was announced. "General Clark's probably got more money than he's ever had in his life."
Clark resigned nearly all his directorships last fall after he announced his candidacy. But he stayed on Messer's board until early January. Goldman co-owns 67% of the firm, and "Clark was our guy on the board," says a Goldman insider, who adds that the company wanted to find a way to give Clark a stake. But Goldman's stock was held by a fund whose bylaws didn't permit loans. So, in a complex swap, Messer loaned Clark 500,000 euros for his 6,734-share purchase in mid-2002, and then Goldman bought the note from Messer. The non-recourse terms mean that if the deal had gone south and Clark defaulted, Goldman would be stuck. In other words, pure upside for Clark, who repaid the note—but kept stock when he left the board.
- Clark's primary role was to help the firm expand into defense and IT sectors. He used his impeccable contacts to gain not one but two audiences with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, giving Stephens an inside track on the government's Iraq thinking. And he was likable, often speaking to packed rooms during client forums. "He's smart, he knows the technology, and has the contacts," says Warren Stephens, the firm's CEO.