There are few individuals who have had a greater impact on Going Private (and by extension Equity Private) of late than DealBreaker.com's Bess Levin. The 22 year old Intern become Staffer prowls the financial world for the obscure, obnoxious, obtuse and the obscene and delivers it with a particular (and wonderful) brand of humor. Of course, on occasion, Going Private has not escaped her astute eye.
Late Tuesday, DealBreaker, tipped off by some anonymous someones or another, suggested that your faithful author might be related to a noteworthy and famous LBO mogul. (The tipster can hardly be blamed for the speculation. Certain facts would fit rather well were I the progeny of certain famous LBO moguls- and one in particular- aside from the fact that I'm not married and I don't work in the luxury goods industry).
So substantial is Bess' readership, that the ensuing traffic swamped poor Going Private right while I was trying to add a much-requested search function to the side bar. The front page of Going Private remained blank for about an hour before I noticed. This, in turn, enraged certain fans of Going Private, who took poor Ms. Levin to task for "outing" me- a rather silly accusation given that Ms. Levin is merely reporting the news- and blaming her for Going Private being "taken down" (I assume they thought this was in response to the rumor). This is quite ironic, really, since it was these selfsame fans who actually took Going Private down.
Dear readers, DealBreaker, one of Going Private's favorite sites, deals in rumor and nuance. We would hardly enjoy it if it became so straight-laced and humorless (or rumorless) that it was just another DealBook (which has some uses still).
Bess (unlike Muffie) is a good friend of Going Private, and aside from being mildly amused, the rumors of my being married and working in the luxury goods industry were received here uneventfully. I am not so thin skinned, and other reporters have speculated even more wildly (and less interestingly) on my identity. Asked about such rumors my standard response is "print it." That's just the nature of the beast when one doesn't have a real-name by-line. (And all press is good press).
Regardless, I have elected to unite the fans of Going Private and Bess Levin, to cleanse the path between them, with a new feature I hope will take hold here at Going Private, "Going Public: 20 Questions for [victim]." Our first victim is, of course, Ms. Bess Levin. Ironically, we had been working on this interview before the recent fracas. (No surprise. I suspect that the anonymous, speculating tipsters may well have been drawn out by my recent tongue-in-cheek appearances on DealBreaker).
For those that do not know, Bess Levin was born and raised in the remarkably Jewy town of Livingston, New Jersey, where Bess is best known for starring in her 1997 Bat Mitzvah. Apparently, she attended Amherst College, where she received a first-hand account of the species known as the WASP and its manifold mating practices, ceremonies and rituals.
Levin graduated from Amherst in May, and there are two conflicting stories as to how she landed at DealBreaker shortly thereafter. One version has her stalking Elizabeth Spiers for a rather lengthy period of time, during which Levin extolled her coffee-getting/making and photocopying skills to Spiers's great impress. The other is that she was found on the doorstep in a basket with a note pinned to her chest; each may or may not be wholly untrue, except for the part about how good she is with coffee and photocopying. Apparently, she excels at both.
Bess presently spends her days outing filthy bulge bracket banks, (certain blog authors too), schooling John Carney at ping pong and getting her "Fuck Me, I'm a Hedge Fund Manger" t-shirt to the perfect level of softness. She maintains that for this last season of the Sopranos, all of the writers went on strike and Michael Imperioli wrote the episodes, which would explain why they're so painful to watch.
Most recently, Bess was awarded the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's "You Jumped the Gate" Scholarship, a negative $85.00 award.
She insists that she has no idea what animal she would most like to be.
Her next big project is compiling an Excel spread sheet of the best massage parlors in the city and abroad, with more particulars that you would ever know what to do with. We joined Bess in the wake of her Going Private "outing" non-scandal.
Equity Private: Bess, if you were an animal, which animal would you be?
Bess Levin: Benjamin Franklin said there are only two certain things in life, death and taxes. You can't live on taxes. But you can live on dead things--if you're a maggot. So, I'd be a maggot.
EP: Of course there is the most obvious question given that you are a woman in a finance related field, do you drink Cosmopolitans?
BL: Are they made out of whiskey, ice and burnt tobacco? Then yes.
EP: Admit it, Michael Douglass' performance as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street was the reason you got into finance. Right?
BL: To be honest, Wall Street was a bit before my time. I didn't see it until I had been working at the Breaker for maybe a month or two and—
EP: They forced you to watch it?
BL: Yes, some sort of hazing process that I can't really discuss. Anyway, to answer your question, it was Willem Dafoe's performance as David Caravaggio in the English Patient.
EP: The cutting off thumbs?
BL: That sounded like working in finance to me.
EP: As a general rule, who is more obnoxious? The private equity people, or the hedge fund people?
BL: Without a doubt, hedge fund people. Have you met Schwarzman? Kravis? (-ahem-) They're darling. Wouldn't hurt a fly. Hedge fund guys would take 2 and 20 from a blind homeless man's change cup.
EP: Does the homeless guy even get the common courtesy of a high-water-mark NAV calculation?
BL: I doubt it, frankly. That being said, is it a well documented fact that I am head over heels in love with Philip Goldstein, and try to spread the gospel of the Holy Church of Phil wherever I go. How could you not adore a man who says stuff like "You motherfuckers aren't going to get away this!" and "I'm not going to let some pompous ass sitting in Boston tell me I can't talk to somebody. What's the big deal? We're not planning a kidnapping here." Of course, you couldn't not adore such a person.
EP: Oh, I forgot to put Goldman people in the options. Where do they rank?
BL: Goldman people defy categorization. Though I maintain that the song "I Touch Myself" (you know it: "I don't love, anybody else, when I think about you, I touch myself")
EP: Uh, yeah. I know it.
BL: That was written about the specimens that inhabit 85 Broad, so if you want to connect any dots there, you have the floor.
EP: What kind of chairs do the DealBreaker offices have?
BL: Aerons, of course.
EP: Are those any good?
BL: They're not bad. Though, just between you and me, New Guy Keith broke his yesterday. He's by no means an overweight person, so perhaps there's a flaw in the design. Either way, it was pretty hilarious, given that he already has a problem purging after lunch.
EP: Who's the most interesting person you've met as a consequence of your DealBreaker position?
BL: In my mind: Andrew Ross Sorkin. In reality: Carl Icahn.
EP: Who would you most like to have by your side if you met Jeffrey Epstein in a dark alley?
BL: Daniel Loeb—he does yoga. Might even teach it, too, though you should fact check that.
EP: What about a bright alley?
BL: Dennis Berman. He seems tough. (And didn't email me anything about the Dow Jones bid before it was public, even though I flooded his inbox demanding that he confirm or deny what I sensed was an upcoming announcement from Rupert Murdoch. That says he he's not going to kowtow to me or anyone else.
Also, that he can keep a secret. (I like that in a man). If for some reason Dennis is unavailable, I'd settle for a Jim Cramer (bobblehead).
EP: Do you frequent dark alleys?
BL: I make it a habit of walking down a shady dark alley where it's been documented that people have been assaulted and/or robbed, at least once a week, just so I can remind myself of what it's like to be alive.
EP: What about bright alleys?
EP: Are you disappointed you weren't named personally in the recent suit against DealBreaker by Solengo Capital?
BL: Equity, I expected more of you! Not only was I named in the suit, but I was the first person they contacted and sent papers to. What I'm disappointed about is that I practiced my "You can't handle the truth!" delivery in the mirror for about a week and it was all for nothing.
EP: I didn't know. The news was all about Carney. Ever watch Frontline? They did a great special on accounting scandals back when.
BL: Accounting scandals don't really make my nose twitch.
EP: Can I keep this pen?
BL: No, I'm going to need that back.
EP: What's the worst pick-up line you've gotten from a fan?
BL: "Your hair looks really good today," Dealbreaker Editor in Chief, John Francis Carney III.
EP: What's the female version of the pick-up line, "There's a party in my pants and everyone is invited."? I always get this line from fans. I've never understood it.
BL: For the last several years, I've used, "Wanna go halfsies on the abortion?" with a success rate of 100%.