FIRST ROUND(3)

Note to David Rubenstein – the next time you suggest a better name for this industry, buy the web domain first.

On 29 September, the Carlyle cofounder told a New York conference audience that “the whole phrase ‘private equity’ needs to be rethought …What we are doing is really not private anymore. We have to realise that we are a major public force.”

Rubenstein then proposed that “change equity” would be a better name for the industry.

The comment was reported in Dow Jones Newswires on a Friday. The following Monday, the web domain changeequity.com and several derivations of it were purchased, according to the domain merchant Register.com. The purchaser was an outfit located on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok called RealTimeDomains.

The proprietor of the domain holding company is Mrs. B. Gruneck, whose photo graces the company website, and who describes RealTimeDomains as being based both in the US and Thailand.

Among the recent domain sales of RealTimeDomains, according to the company, are realestate.net ($300,000), virtuallondon.com ($30,000) and macau.com ($550,000).

Clearly Mrs. Gruneck believes she has hit the jackpot with changeequity. com. We asked her how much she wanted for the domain. Answer – $850,000, although Gruneck is “willing to entertain any serious offers”. Change-equity.com is also for sale.

The current owner of privateequity.com is Ardent Services, a Virginia “clearinghouse of online information”. Privateequity.com, although it appears second in a Google search result for “private equity”, is little more than a collection of links to firms. Surely there is someone out there with more ambitious plans for changeequity. com (and a few hundred thousand bucks to seal the deal).

QUOTABLE
“We'll stay in the mid-market. All our relationships are there, and we can make good money there.”

Jonathan Russell of 3i in this month's Privately Speaking, starting on p. 44.

“We will see more financial services deals; albeit coming from a low base. We will probably see some deals that we admire – and some deals that are stupid.”

Christopher Flowers, the new co-owner of US student loans provider Sallie Mae, on the future of financial services buyouts. Quoted in the Financial Times.

“I can't even go to the local hardware store [where] some private equity guy doesn't jump out from behind the bin with some proposal.”

Time Warner Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Parsons on private equity interest in buying out internet service provider AOL, to the Associated Press.

“They have what they call an exit strategy. We have an entrance strategy – we don't have an exit strategy.”

Warren Buffett, speaking last month on The Charlie Rose Show, on the topic of how his company, Berkshire Hathaway, is different from a private equity firm. Buffett has compared his company to a museum for good businesses, while private equity firms are “pawn shops”.