Steve Rattner, the Saddest Little Billionaire on Fifth Avenue

Steve Rattner
Steve Rattner and wife Maureen White Photo: Patrick McMullan

Quadrangle Group founder Steve Rattner is an enigmatic man. He and his wife, former DNC fund-raising chair Maureen White, have been heavily involved in Democratic politics since the Clinton days. Rattner himself has had a quixotic rise through the industries of finance and journalism — he went from being a hotshot young Times reporter to a crack investment banker, winding up at the No. 2 spot at Lazard Frères before he went into private equity. So why is he so sad? Newsweek thinks it knows:

Though Rattner has cultivated the rich and powerful and become indispensable to them as a financier and fund-raiser, the brass ring still eludes this ambitious, 56-year-old former journalist. Among his many accomplishments in the financial world, running a top Wall Street firm is — glaringly — not one of them. (He came close at the prestigious Lazard Frères, making it as high as deputy CEO of the New York branch.) Nor has he managed to snare a cabinet post in D.C., something friends and associates say he has long coveted.


Newsweek explains how Rattner has carefully been plotting a way to get into a key post in Washington. Friends say he wants to be the secretary of the Treasury, but like with everybody else, friends of rich people can be two-faced. "He has the brainpower for the job," says KKR chief Henry Kravis supportively, just before pulling the rug out from under him. "Ask the average guy if he knows or has heard of [Clinton Treasury secretary Robert] Rubin, chances are he has. But not Rattner." Ouch. Other "friends" also take swipes:

Some point accusingly to Rattner's newfound support of Obama — he and White have been trying to bring Hillary holdouts to the fold, and they are looking to raise at least $1 million for him. "I think he and Maureen want to be in a position to have something out of it," says one Clinton fund-raiser on Wall Street.


Is it possible to be a "social climber" when you are a billionaire titan of industry? Apparently so. In an excerpt from columnist Michael Wolff's book Autumn of the Moguls reprinted in New York in 2003, Wolff describes exactly this scenario — with Rattner himself. "[He] has the advantage of being an active and willing social climber but not being sleazy. He is very smooth," wrote Wolff. "He has a certain degree of Wasp aestheticism — or Wasp envy. Formality. Reserve. Efficiency. Soft-spokenness. (He is a kind of perfect museum-board member.)" Or kind of a perfect Obama supporter? We'll just have to wait to see if this is Rattner's year.

Being Mr. Big [Newsweek]
Related: Autumn of the Moguls [NYM]