Robert Greenwald is going to Henry Kravis’ house this morning to make a point. Kravis makes $57,000 an hour — but you probably pay more taxes.
It may be Christmastime, but the revelers are not there to embrace the holiday. They will be outside the apartment of Mr. Kravis, a founder of the buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, for a sidewalk screening of the first of a series of short films crusading against private equity firms. Passers-by can catch the film on high-technology sandwich boards being worn by protesters.
The movie, “The War on Greed, Starring the Homes of Henry Kravis,” is a tongue-in-cheek story — think “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” meets “Roger & Me” — detailing Mr. Kravis’s homes and lifestyle, juxtaposed against the homes and incomes of working families.
The series is an attempt to bring attention to the caustic and destabilizing effects that private equity firms have had on various sectors:
The first film, which will be shown at warongreed.org beginning today, tries to explain what Mr. Greenwald describes as the excesses and perils of private equity in a lighthearted way. Subsequent films, he said, would be more serious and look at effects on employees and customers, though he does not plan to suggest concrete solutions.
Some industry insiders may blanch at his attempt to simplify, or as he would say, “boil down” his message. In one voiceover, private equity is described as a firm that takes over “public companies using primarily borrowed money.”
“To pay off this debt,” the film says, “they then sell off assets of the companies, fire thousands of workers and radically cut benefits of the remaining employees. It is the same product, in the same building, with the same customers as before.”
The SEIU has also been organizing against private equity firms like the Carlyle Group, who see managed care for the elderly as a great opportunity to slash costs and reap huge profits — with predictably horrific results.
The NYT article does end on a cheery note — "a downturn in the economy may show how overleveraged some of these companies were, perhaps demonstrating [Greenwald’s] point, but perhaps too late."