Billions in Play, But Behind a Curtain of Secrecy

There's probably no one in the United States who hasn't heard of Chrysler. In fact, most people have probably ridden in one of the company's cars at some point.

But the firm that's buying out the iconic American brand for a little more than $7 billion is significantly less well known.

Cerberus Capital Management, a New York-based private equity firm, has built its financial empire outside the public eye, acquiring dozens of well-known companies that generate more than $60 billion in revenues every year.

The firm, founded in 1992, started building its portfolio with just $10 million in capital. Co-founder Stephen Feinberg, known for maintaining a strict secrecy about the company and its plans, has taken that relatively tiny bit of change and built it into one of the most aggressive and well-funded private equity funds in the world.

Today Cerberus is lead by John Snow, the former U.S. Treasury secretary who joined in October after leaving the Bush administration.

"We have a real-deep belief in Chrysler, its people, its dealers, and we want to be a part of restoring Chrysler to the front ranks of the world's auto industry, where it belongs," Snow told ABC News today. "You know that is one of the great names of the industry."

Snow is not alone. Former Vice President Dan Quayle is among the roster of executives who play a role in finding and running the companies that Cerberus acquires.

The firm has gobbled up other well-known brands, recently buying a controlling stake in GMAC, in addition to owning Air Canada, bus builder Blue Bird, Alamo and National car rental and the Mervyn's department store chain.

Buying Big Names, Avoiding Publicity

Despite the impressive list of companies Cerberus has bought, the company keeps a fairly tight lid on publicity.

The firm's corporate Web site was launched a little more than a year ago and houses just a few pages of information: things like a list of some of the Cerberus investments, a breakdown of the company's employees by functional area and a brief, 88-word description of its investment philosophy.

With Cerberus having tens of billions of dollars in play, a visitor might expect its philosophy to be fairly significant, but it is more PowerPoint bullet than detailed Wall Street doctrine.

"At Cerberus, we have a long-term investment horizon and focus on value creation. We invest in undervalued companies and their people, and help them to realize their potential. We partner with our portfolio companies to help them become industry leaders."