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Private equity executive Feinberg in talks to join Trump administration

By Greg Roumeliotis

(Reuters) - Cerberus Capital Management LP's Chief Executive Officer Stephen Feinberg is in talks to join U.S. President Donald Trump's administration in a senior role, the private equity firm said on Thursday.

Feinberg's move would make him the latest Wall Street veteran to serve under Trump. U.S. Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Commerce Secretary designate Wilbur Ross, and Gary Cohn, director of the White House National Economic Council, are just some of the high-profile financiers who have agreed to join Trump's administration.

It is not clear what role Feinberg is discussing with Trump's senior team. His appointment would require him to provide "voluminous information" and disclosures to the Office of Government Ethics and comply with all applicable conflict-of-interest rules and regulations, Cerberus told its investors earlier on Thursday in a letter seen by Reuters.

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Cerberus also told its investors that it has a succession plan in place that would result in minimal changes to the current management and operation of the firm.

Feinberg, who served as one of Trump's economic advisers during his U.S. election campaign, co-founded Cerberus in 1992.

A Princeton graduate, he previously worked at bond trader Drexel Burnham Lambert. Forbes Magazine currently pegs 56-year-old Feinberg's net worth at $1.25 billion.

Feinberg rarely gives interviews and has been photographed only a few times by news photographers. It is not clear how he would respond to the publicity of a job within the administration, assuming the role being discussed is a high-profile one.

Cerberus became well known for a $7.4 billion deal it struck in 2007, along with co-investors, to buy an 80 percent stake in car maker Chrysler and its financing arm Chrysler Financial.

Chrysler was pushed to the brink of liquidation in 2009 before a bailout that was the subject of intense debate within the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama. Cerberus lost control of the automaker during its restructuring.

In December 2010, Cerberus struck a deal to sell Chrysler Financial to Toronto-Dominion Bank for $6.3 billion. A source close to Cerberus said at the time that deal meant the private equity firm would end up close to break-even on its investment in Chrysler as a whole.

Feinberg attracted more controversy in 2012, when a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, using a Bushmaster rifle made by Freedom Group Inc, an arms manufacturer owned by Cerberus.

Following unease by Cerberus investors, the New York-based buyout firm sought to sell Freedom Group but could not sell it for the $1 billion price tag it expected. Instead, Feinberg came up with a mechanism for Cerberus fund investors to sell their stakes in Freedom Group.

Cerberus has more than $30 billion in assets under management. Its investments include supermarket operator Albertsons Companies Inc and beauty products company Avon Products Inc.

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

 
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