Tuesday, July 08, 2008

SEIU slams Lazard over elder care. (pot calls kettle black)

http://www.behindthebuyouts.org/ Also, see behind the BehindTheBuyOuts.org

New York Post, --By HOLLY M. SANDERS

July 8, 2008
A major health care workers' union is running Web ads accusing Lazard kingpin Bruce Wasserstein and his firm of exploiting the elderly in pursuit of profits.

The spots, created by the Service Employees International Union, blame a Lazard Ltd.-linked buyout fund for rent hikes, staffing shortages and lapses in care, among other problems, at Atria Senior Living facilities.

Atria, based in Louisville, Ky., is owned by Lazard Real Estate Partners, a private-equity fund affiliated with Lazard Ltd.

The ads mark the latest phase in the union's attempts to organize workers at Atria, which operates more than 130 facilities in 27 states. The union, which claims roughly 2 million members, has also held protests at Lazard's Rockefeller Center offices.

The ads, which popped up yesterday on sites such as the New York Times and the New York Post, claim that while rents for Atria residents have skyrocketed the company has cut back on costs and the level of care.

At first glance, the ads look like a pitch for a financial product. When users click on them, they are directed to a site, www.improveassistedliving.org, where the lead item reads, "Gouging Grandma: Billionaire Bruce Wasserstein."

Wasserstein "buys companies, cuts costs, and drives up their value - often for a quick profit at the expense of customers, consumers and workers," the site said, adding "he is worth more than $2 billion."

Lazard maintains the real estate fund that owns Atria is part of a separate company - Lazard Alternative Investments - that was spun off in 2005, and that it has no control over the fund or Atria's management.

The union argues the real estate fund is an affiliate of Lazard and that the firm's Byzantine structure serves to obscure the relationship.

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