Wall Street Titan Emerges as Leading Candidate for ‘Car Czar’

Jan 8, 2009 5:12pm

Democrats tell ABC News successful private equity investor Steve Rattner of the investment firm Quadrangle Group has emerged as President-elect Barack Obama’s leading candidate to be "car czar."

Known for brokering investment media deals, Rattner began his career as a reporter with the New York Times before leaving for the greener pastures of Wall Street. There, he rose quickly at places like Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, and Lazard Frères. Mr. Rattner is highly regarded for his financial acumen — so highly that a year ago, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg put his fortune — estimated to be worth as much as $13 billion — in Rattner’s hands.

The so-called "car czar" position does not yet formally exist; Congressional Democrats have been working with the Obama Team on creating it.

If ultimately, formally picked, Mr. Rattner would supervise the overhaul of the American auto industry, help automakers restructure, and would likely be able to use the threat of forcing a company into bankruptcy to exact concessions.

Rattner did not return a call for comment, but the Manhattanite seems to share with his likely new boss a certain style. In Autumn of the Moguls author Michael Wolff described Rattner as "very smooth" with a mien of formality, reserve, efficiency, and soft-spokenness. "He is a kind of perfect museum-board member," Wolff wrote.

Rattner was a major fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., during the Democratic presidential primaries but after Mr. Obama felled his home state junior senator, he quickly began raising campaign cash for him as well, bringing in more than $100,000 for the then-Illinois senator’s successful campaign. Rattner’s wife Maureen White is a former fundraising chair for the Democratic National Committee.   

– jpt

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