Bradford & Bingley: 'Be sure as hell he'll shake it up'

Click to follow

"B&B might not be a big investment in the whole scheme of things, but you can be sure as hell he will shake things up over there." That's the assessment of a former colleague of David Bonderman, the man behind buyout group TPG.

With an estimated £1.7bn personal fortune, he has garnered an enviable reputation since he founded the firm in 1992.

Originally from Los Angeles, Bonderman studied at Harvard Law School, then took an unorthodox route to the American University of Cairo. He also spent a year in the civil rights division of America's Justice Department before working in the leveraged buyout arena in the 1980s in a number of roles.

He is viewed as eccentric and at times aggressive, but highly intelligent. And he isn't averse to the limelight. In 2002 he celebrated his 60th birthday by spending an estimated $7m (£3.5m) hiring the Rolling Stones for the night at a Las Vegas casino. He requested a special staircase be built at the venue so his guests wouldn't have to mingle with other punters.

The bulk of Bonderman's investments have been in the US, with TPG first making its name one year after its launch in 1993 when it bought bankrupt airline Continental – sold five years later for a 10-fold profit.

It has since taken part in some of the buyout world's biggest deals, including the $45bn purchase of energy giant TXU last year, which it bought in a syndicate with rivals including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

Other notable acquisitions include household names such as Burger King, which has since returned to the public markets, Swiss luxury shoe- maker Bally, the motorcycle maker Ducati, Australian airline Quantas and food brand Del Monte.

The global nature of private equity means that TPG has become increasingly attracted to British companies too. In 2003 it teamed up with rival CVC to buy out the Debenhams retail chain, and it was at the heart of the war to buy supermarket group J Sainsbury last year, which ultimately failed. TPG also owns Gate Gourmet, the firm that caters for many of the world's biggest airlines flying out of Heathrow and Gatwick.

Bonderman and his European team, led by former banker Philippe Costeletos, aren't afraid of confrontation, going head-to-head with union bosses over a number of issues. Indeed, the GMB union plastered photos of Costeletos on billboards at last year's Glastonbury music festival criticising his perceived asset-stripping tactics.

Things haven't always gone Bonderman's way, as illustrated by when he was forced to abandon his plans to buy Spanish airline group Iberia last year. However, the magic touch seemed to have returned earlier this year with the audacious purchase of a $7bn stake in American financial giant Washington Mutual. Bonderman's influence is already starting to show. Last week chief executive Kerry Killinger was shorn of his chairmanship.

Meanwhile, TPG is thought to have made a profit of more than $1.3bn for investors following the sale of a stake in telecoms group Alltel last week. The 28 per cent return comes less than one year after the initial investment was made.