If the Rhone Group buys out a controlling interest in Liverpool then expect Nikolas Sarkozy at Anfield. Silvio Berlusconi. Jose Maria Aznar. Rudolph Giuliani. George Bush. The American Enterprise Institute. The who is who of the far right in Europe and the USA. Not exactly a crowd that is friendly with Supporters Direct.
When he is not busy making money, Robert F Agostinelli, the co-founder of the Rhone Group is busy writing letters that rail against Left Bank idealism and Islamo-fascism. He is a big donor to Republican and neo-conservative causes. And he has politically powerful friends like the ones mentioned above.
"Sarko" is a focused, energetic leader, with a strong sense both of himself and of France's destiny. His urgency and forthrightness have struck a deep chord with the French people. He has awakened their long-dormant optimism with a simple recipe for national revival: provide opportunity for all, reward hard work, and reaffirm the rule of law."
Nikolas Sarkozy's trip to the USA in 2006 was paid by Agostinelli, whose former wife Mathilde is a close friend of Sarkozy's ex- wife Cecilia. That friendship endured after the couple divorced and Sarkozy married Carla Bruni. At that time Sarkozy was the Interior Minister. There is an interesting story of how these connections helped extradite a fugitive, a descendant of George Washington. When the case came up in a French court, John Washington accused Agostinelli of leaving him death threats on his answering machine. Washington fled France after assaulting Colin Hall, a Rhone Group associate at a St. Tropez night spot.
Agostinelli further describes himself:
"As a committed classical liberal, I am pleased that, with Sarkozy's rise, the ideas of Schumpeter and Hayek have finally found a place in the evolution of French thought. I never thought I would be able to say it with such confidence, but the answer to Mr. Gurfinkiel's question is, "Yes, of course, France can be saved."
He also wrote to the WSJ praising Silvio Berlusconi as "a leader who will save the country" and further writes that "the left is a cancer that needs to be eradicated."
Agostinelli was a donor to both Rudy Giuliani and John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. He is a big wheel in conservative circles and last year attended a dinner at the American Enterprise Institute honouring Charles Murray, the political scientist who came up with the controversial "The Bell Curve" which gave IQ a race based tone and put it in the forefront as a predictor of success rather than education or the parents socio-economic status. In attendance were the doyen of the conservative movement.
His political activism and connections have earned him a spot on the board of the Council for Foreign Relations, a bipartisan think tank influential in international realpolitik.
In William D. Cohan's best selling book "The Last Tycoon: The Secret History of Lazard Frères & Co., Agostinelli is described as:
"A suave, sophisticated, energetic international financier with extravagant tastes and slicked-back jet-black hair, who pretended to speak Italian but could not."
By all accounts he is very good at what he does. Building up Goldman Sachs M&A business in London in the late 80s after which he moved to Lazard's as a partner. He and Steve Langman founded the Rhone Group in 1995. The group is described as a boutique firm that specializes in mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances, leveraged buyouts, re-capitalizations, joint partnerships, and business valuation services. It boasts some very big names and has offices in Paris and London while headquartered in NY.
It is quite ironic that Tom Hicks who also made his money though leveraged buyouts and distressed assets is haggling over Liverpool valuations. He seems to have met his match. We shall see who blinks first.
Agostinelli and Langman seem to have skimpy resumes when it comes to love of the game but they have serious money. In this downturn, they probably have the best offer and even better long term prospects with transfer money availability. And I am sure from gauging Agostinelli, he probably knows he won't go down too well with the fans (not his demographic). But then again who knows, he seems to have come up the hardscrabble way and espouses the conservative mantra of self sufficiency and working hard to make a success. Liverpudlians should like that. To become a bit more palatable, he could check his gun at the door and become less pro war.