Over the past four decades, private equity has become a powerful, and malignant, force in our daily lives. In our May+June 2022 issue, Mother Jones investigates the vulture capitalists chewing up and spitting out American businesses, the politicians enabling them, and the everyday people fighting back. Find the full package here.
After 16 years at the helm of Houdaille Industries, CEO Jerry Saltarelli wanted out. Since 1941, he’d poured his heart and soul into the company, starting out as a young lawyer and moving up the executive ranks. As CEO, he’d helped the company transform from a manufacturer of bumpers and shock absorbers into a nationwide construction and machine tools conglomerate.
With the company on solid footing, he was ready to retire, but there was a problem. Houdaille—cash-rich and with minimal debt—was the kind of company in vogue with the corporate raiders of 1970s Wall Street, and the New York Times declared that a takeover might prove “irresistible.” This would likely lead to restructuring and layoffs—bleeding the company of its value and tossing aside its way of doing business. Saltarelli wanted none of that. All he wanted was a way to sell his stake while keeping Houdaille independent, doing right by his colleagues, and protecting his legacy.
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