I went to see Tim Collins. I hadn't seen him since I sat next to him at the Trilateral Commission meeting. He was in his hotel room drinking Diet Coke (I am a Diet Coke addict.) and smoking his cigar. A well known Japanese guest was leaving as I came in. Tim is really amazing. He knows everyone. More interesting is that he knows everyone in Japan. He is able to meet with, communicate with and convince so many important people in Japan without losing any of his matter-of-fact, cigar-smoking American style. The boards he puts together read like a who's who politically and commercially. Maybe it is because he has bet on Japan and is one of the few foreign investors whose interests are very much aligned now with the Japanese people. His firm, Ripplewood is famous for the buy-out of the Long Term Credit Bank of Japan (now called Shinsei Bank), the hardware and music divisions of Nippon Columbia and Sea Gaia. They are all doing much better than people expected.
Unless the Japanese economy recovers and consumers start to spend the market for the companies he has invested will not be very exciting. Tim is much more knowledgeable about many aspects of the Japanese government than I am and has very practical thoughts on reform. We talked about the various probable scenarios and our wishful-thinking scenarios and they were virtually the same. Again, he impressed me with his thoughtfulness.
As I struggle with trying to keep myself from being co-opted, I think Tim struggles to make sure the Japanese believe he is on their side. We struggle from somewhat different positions, but end up at many of the same conclusions. (And at some of the same parties.)
Terrie writes about Ripplewood this month in Terrie's Take.