The gun business, where commerce meets the fraught politics of the Second Amendment, often makes for interesting reading. Add in the complexities of private equity investing and a reclusive billionaire, and well, you’ve got the makings of a fascinating yarn. That’s precisely what you’ll discover in New York’s richly reported feature on Stephen Feinberg, who runs Cerberus Capital, and his ill-fated foray into the firearms business. It’s entitled “Big Gun’s Big Fail: A secretive Manhattan billionaire’s dreams of creating America’s foremost firearms empire.” Feinberg is presented as a series of contradictions: a quiet New Yorker who likes to hunt elk but also sought military-style weapons training from Blackwater; a Princeton grad who fancies himself a blue-collar billionaire; and a committed conservative whose firm’s troubled investments in Chrysler and the former GMAC benefitted from massive government bailouts.
Feinberg’s love of shooting led him to a plan to roll up many gun companies, including Remington and Bushmaster, into something first called Freedom Group, now Remington Outdoor. It turned out to be an investment thesis that was better on paper than in real life. After some devastating cost (and as a result, quality) cuts by Robert Nardelli, who was briefly its CEO, the company struggled. Fear not, though: Cerberus emerged unscathed. This piece is worth reading for the granular detail—salt-of-the-earth gun-company CEOs opining about the New York private equity fund—and its ability to take you inside a world you rarely glimpse.