Blackstone Group president Tony James claimed the allegations could be politically motivated during a conference call about the firm’s third quarter results.
The 61-year-old was personally named in a lawsuit brought by shareholders in 27 companies who claim they lost out on more than $1bn due to anti-competitive action during private equity takeovers.
Among emails listed in the filing was one sent by James to Roberts following Blackstone’s decision not to bid for hospital operator HCA, which was then picked up by competitors KKR and Bain Capital.
In it James said, “We would much rather work with you guys than against you.
“Together we can be unstoppable but in opposition we can cost each other a lot of money.
“I hope to be in a position to call you with a large exclusive PTP [public to private] in the next week or 10 days.”
The lawsuit says Roberts replied simply with the word “agreed.”
James said in the conference call it was permissible and necessary for big firms to team up on deals, but even then getting competing executives to be civil could be tough.
He said, “I suspect there’s some political motivation lurking here because we have a private-equity guy running for president.
“Usually the communication happens at the deal team but when you get a relationship issue between the firms, as sometimes happens, then sometimes the top management needs to cool them off.
“It’s one thing to compete but when you have personal animosity between the professionals it’s not a good thing, because inevitably, by no choice of our own, we end up co-investors of the company and we do have to be able to work constructively together and be professional even as we’re competitive.”
More than ten private equity heavyweights including Blackstone, Carlyle Group and KKR have been named in the lawsuit, which covers deals made at the height of the buyout boom between 2003 and 2007
The case is Dahl et al v. Bain Capital Partners LLC et al, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, No. 07-12388.
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