Not long before he acquired a sizeable stake in Debenhams, the former bankruptcy lawyer turned private equity baron David Bonderman decided to do some celebrating.
Nothing too discreet, though. That is not his style.
The financial entrepreneur, who has amassed a £3 billion fortune through his aggressive buyouts of failing or under-performing companies, subscribes to the ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’ philosophy of life.
Take his £27 million Gulfstream V jet, perhaps his most treasured possession, on which he logs 2,000 flying hours a year. He has had the monogram ‘DB’ emblazoned on its tail.
So he marked the occasion of his 60th birthday with all the flamboyance money can buy.
The Rolling Stones were hired at a cost of £4 million — that was a cool $1 million for each member of the band — to entertain 300 of his friends in a bash that he modestly dubbed ‘Bonderman rocks Las Vegas’.
First, guests were wined and dined on caviar and champagne at the Bellagio Hotel, the over-the-top resort which was the backdrop for the Hollywood film Ocean’s Eleven, where they were entertained by the actor and comedian Robin Williams, who also pocketed a $1 million fee.
They were then bussed to the Hard Rock Hotel, where rocker John Mellencamp was the warm-up act before Mick Jagger and the Stones played a 17-song, 90-minute set — personally chosen by Bonderman — that included Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Brown Sugar.
The Los Angeles-born tycoon had thoughtfully installed an enclosed pathway between the hotel’s banqueting suite and The Joint, where the Stones performed, so his guests didn’t have to rub shoulders with hoi polloi.
The party cost Bonderman a small fortune — when the bills were totted up, there wasn’t much change from £7 million — but that, of course, was the point.
Extravagance and showmanship are his calling card, along with an inevitable wisecrack.
‘I’m not paying for this,’ he said at the time. ‘My kids are.’
Ten years later, Bonderman was back in Vegas for another anniversary party featuring another big-name rock star.
This time it was former Beatle Paul McCartney providing the music and receiving a reported £3 million fee. Robin Williams was once again booked for the cabaret at the Wynn Hotel and casino.
On that occasion, 700 friends were on the guest list — ten for each year of his life — and the champagne, vintage Krug, was said to have flowed like water. The party rooms were decorated with colourful socks, in a nod to Bonderman’s predilection for mismatched hosiery.
‘It was incredible,’ gushed one partygoer. ‘Very excessive even by Las Vegas standards, which is saying something.’
A business rival is more direct. ‘David likes winning,’ he says, ‘and he always likes people to see how much he has won.’
And what better way to do that than to splash out on the most lavish parties, which people are still talking about years later?
The City old guard has always loathed such ostentation — but that has never worried Bonderman, who believes his outstanding results speak for themselves.
Three years after acquiring that share in Debenhams through his Texas Pacific Group — now known as TPG — he and the two other private equity firms that had made the original investment cashed out.
The company was floated on the market and the three firms made back three times the £600 million of capital they put in.
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