The big money in Washington these days

Bill Regardie Founder, Regardie's Magazine
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Though lobbying may employ more big guns, the big money in Washington these days is in investment banking. After all, not even Tommy Boggs could pull off a billion-dollar public offering.

But now that The Carlyle Group, Washington’s all-powerful investment bank, has selected underwriters for its eagerly awaited IPO, only one question remains: Which banker will be the next to go for the gold?

Chuck, the head bartender at The Palm restaurant, who on a regular shift overhears more inside info than an SEC investigator, told me the other day that the smart money is on Marty Applebaum, Tony Donnatelli and Francis (Noodles) Niedermeyer, a.k.a. The Applebaum Group.

This Georgetown-based emerging giant is built on the Carlyle frame, only lower priced. They started as the Filene’s Basement of investment banking.

Though Marty, Tony and Noodles lack the experience, polish and pedigrees of the old boys, they have the streets smarts, hustle and singular lack of ethics of Hollywood agents. In just five years, they’ve built a $20 billion investment junk bank based in D.C. that even Gordon Gecko would have admired.

Chuck let me in on some of the details of the latest sit-down between Marty and his longtime lawyer Bobby Morriority. They took their seats, and the first thing out of Marty’s mealy mouth was “IPO.”

“I’m not surprised,” said the attorney, “but how are you going to handle ‘those deals?’”

Marty ignored the question and instead dropped his elevator speech.

“We’re on fire. The deals are pouring in. We got the best people. We’re just going to ride the Carlyle coattail,” he rifled.

“We’ll get that investment banker who took all those techies public in the last century. If we all do our jobs right, we can raise $200 million. Your firm will rake in boffo fees. I’ll even get you some options, okay?”

Morriority nodded his assent, but the man who had made partner the same year that Gerald Ford was sworn in as president knew there were questions.

“Seriously,” he said, “What about those deals?”

Marty knew them by heart: the hedge fund that wiped out all those Canadian Army widows; the desalinization plant that destroyed a million acres of soybeans in Brazil; the failed refinancing of the Bhopal chemical complex; and the experimental Taiwan electric plant that surged and destroyed Intel’s largest circuit factory.

Marty, knowing who he was dealing with, came clean.

“Noodles is going to take the fall.”

Morriority, looking both impressed and surprised, said, “Does he know this?”

“Not yet,” conceded Marty, “but I’ve got a guy I leak to at The Wall Street Journal. I can get this out early, phony up docs, make it a one-day story. Noodles won’t be happy but we’ll pay him off. He’ll go for it. He loves money more than he does his mother.”

Morriority liked the plan, but he had one more question: “Do you really think you can pull it off?”

Marty smiled.

“For $200 million, I could get Anthony Weiner reelected. I could keep Marion Barry straight. And I sure as hell can sell my company.”

Bill Regardie is the founder of Regardie’s magazine.