Apr 21 2014, 3:39pm CDT | by Forbes
In the summer of 2008, as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression was unfolding, Jeb Bush, Florida’s former governor and brother of then President George W. Bush, traveled to Mexico to ask Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helú to rescue Lehman Brothers, The New York Times reported.
In a front page article on Monday, The Times revealed that within a year of ending his term as Florida’s governor, Bush had signed on as consultant to Lehman Brothers, where he was enlisted to reach out to Carlos Slim in a plan code-named Project Verde (Green Project). Slim, says the Times, was not interested in making a major investment in Lehman Brothers—the Wall Street giant whose bankruptcy catalyzed the financial meltdown—or striking up a joint venture with it. “Project Verde was unsuccessful,” Bush wrote to a Lehman colleague in early July 2008.
When asked to confirm the story, Arturo Elías Ayub, Slim’s spokesperson and son-in-law, told me he had no comment.
Based on records and interviews that show that Jeb Bush participated in the “fevered, last-ditch efforts to prop up Lehman Brothers, a Wall Street bank weighed down by toxic mortgage-backed securities,” The Times learned about Bush’s failed mission, which was unknown until now. The daily says that emails show that as a paid adviser to the company in 2008, Jeb Bush met with Slim Helú as Lehman sought to persuade the world’s second richest man to make a sizable investment in the firm.
In 2008, Lehman was the fourth-largest investment bank in the US (behind Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch), doing business in investment banking, equity and fixed-income sales and trading, research, investment management, private equity, and private banking.
The revelation is one more example of how Slim is often seen in the U.S: as a “lender of last resort” to troubled companies, including The New York Times.
The Times does not say why Slim rejected the offer, but given that the troubles of Lehman Brothers were already known, Slim probably did not think it was a good investment.
As to why Lehman Brothers chose Bush, and not others, for the Slim mission has to do with his reputation as being close to Mexico. Bush is married to a Mexican national, speaks fluent Spanish and has long-standing connections to powerful Mexicans both in the business community and among the political elite.
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