Bluegrass Festival Backer Hellman Sifts Through Ruins of Global Collapse Seeking Capital Sufficient To Bring Back Emmylou Harris

Joyce Goldschmid
Warren Hellman, banjo messiah?
With just a half-year to go before Golden Gate Park's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, free-concert backer Warren Hellman is combing the wreckage of the global financial collapse, seeking to augment the fortune that keeps his massive three-day music festival stocked with first-rate talent.

According to the financial newspaper The Daily Deal, Hellman & Friedman LLC is among the bidders for iShares, an exchange-traded fund business whose owner is pressed for cash to cover a portfolio of rotten mortgage-backed securities.

The British banking concern Barclays hopes to sell the unit, valued at around $5 billion, by Tuesday in order to pay for government insurance that would cover its portfolio of toxic assets, the story said.

Given the fire-sale pressure on Barclays, Hellman might be expected to press for a bargain. With the world financial system in ruins, Hellman's been in full-on vulture capitalist mode, bidding recently for an asset management unit of collapsed financial services firm Lehman Brothers.

If his iShares bid turns up clover, Hellman, a bluegrass musician on the side, might create a twist on the legend associated with Roman emperor Nero, who reputedly fiddled while the city burned. In Hellman's case, the world financial system has burned so that our local impresario-king might bankroll a three-day round of fiddling.

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