A kinder, gentler Carlyle Group?

The private equity firm reaches out, especially to Montana environmentalists.

Kai Ryssdal: Private equity is one of those things a lot of us have heard of, but maybe haven't spent too much time thinking about. Until this year's presidential campaign made it practically a household term with Bain Capital in the political mix.

So in what you might take as a sign of the times, one of the biggest private equity firms out there -- The Carlyle Group -- is doing a little message control, launching a new website with a kinder, gentler image of what they do.

From the Wealth and Poverty Desk, Marketplace's Krissy Clark explains.


Krissy Clark: You've probably never been to Carlyle.com, and until yesterday, there wasn't much reason to. But now, one of the first clicks you can make will take you to this video: a guy in a hard hat says what he'd to do if someone from the private equity firm showed up at his construction site.

Video: If we could get them here I'd shake their hand.  I’d say thank you very much -- number one, for the opportunity, and number two, for letting me work.

That's exactly the kind of feeling Chris Ullman wants to inspire.  He directs global communications for the Carlyle group.,   he says, with all the scrutiny on the industry right now he wanted to get the word out that all they do is to  invest money in companies to make them better, and then sell them for a profit.

Ullman: This is a perfect time for us to actually to actually embrace the scrutiny and demonstrate to the world what we've been doing for the past 30 years.

But it turns out, they also had a very particular audience member in mind.

Ullman: An archetypical left-of-center environmentalist in Montana.

Why, you ask? Last year, the Carlyle group bought a water company in Montana, and he says there was a lot of public outcry. So, I called up one of the outcriers.

Clark: And would you consider yourself a left-leaning environmentalist who lives in Montana?

Hermina Herald: Yes, I guess that's part of my identity.

Hermina Herald looked at the website, and her verdict?

Herald: It appears to be sort of greenwashing a little bit?

For now, that might be the best private equity can hope for from its entrenched critics. 

I'm Krissy Clark for Marketplace.

About the author

Krissy Clark is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.

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