Daschle Friend Walked Away From Global Crossing With Millions

February 2, 2009 12:54 p.m.

At the center of the issues that have complicated Tom Daschle’s nomination to run the Department of Health and Human Services is his relationship with Leo Hindery, the politically connected founder of the private equity firm InterMedia.

Taxes aside, we still don’t know much about what Hindery got for the $1 million-a-year consulting fee he paid Daschle. Hindery and his colleagues at InterMedia aren’t speaking, and the New York Times reports only that, according to a Daschle spokeswoman, “[i]n addition to lending the prestige of his name, Mr. Daschle traveled to help raise money from investors for Mr. Hindery’s new venture”.

But whatever Daschle did for his very healthy pay check, his association with Hindery should raise some eyebrows.

Hindery, a media entrepreneur who in 2001 founded the YES Network as the TV home of the New York Yankees, was briefly the CEO of Global Crossing, the upstart fiber-optic carrier whose collapse in late 2001, amid claims that executives had made fraudulent claims about the state of the company’s finances, rocked the financial world.

To be clear, Hindery had left by the time of the meltdown, and most accounts place the largest share of the blame for the company’s crackup on its founder Gary Winick. But when Hindery left, in October 2000 — not long after predicting, inaccurately, that the company would be cash-flow positive by early 2002 — he was definitely in the money. He had negotiated the sale of one of the company’s divisions to Exodus Communications, in a deal which netted Hindery himself nearly $250 million.

How? BusinessWeek explained at the time:

Based on his contract with Global Crossing, he’ll own 5.5% of the company if there’s a change of control — something that Hindery himself manufactured over the past two months by brokering the deal to Exodus. With a strike price of $54.37 a share, Hindery’s stake stands to make him nearly $250 million when Exodus completes its “definitive” deal to buy GlobalCenter.

Not bad work if you can get it. Though when, just over a year later, Global Crossing filed for the seventh-largest bankruptcy in American history, its investors and employees — who in 2004 received a $325 million settlement stemming from the loss of their pensions and 401ks — might have been less impressed.

But Hindery wasn’t done there. In October 2002, he went to court to force Global Crossing to fork over another $708,000 in back pay and more than $100,000 in rent for an apartment at the Waldorf-Astoria Towers on Park Avenue. Hindery had had the foresight to write into his original Global Crossing contract the stipulation that the firm would keep footing the bill for the rent on his Park Avenue pad through Oct. 3, 2002, and would keep paying him a $1-million-a-year consulting fee through September of that year. A lawyer for Global Crossing’s many creditors called the effort “laughable”, telling the Wall Street Journal Hindery “can line up with all the other general unsecured creditors.”

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