A Private Equity Giant Trained the Group that Assassinated Jamal Khashoggi

Private equity is everywhere. Cerberus Capital Management even had its hand in training authoritarian killers.

Welcome to BIG, a newsletter on the politics of monopoly power. If you’d like to sign up to receive issues over email, you can do so here.

Private equity is everywhere. Here’s the New York Times on the group that trained the Saudi men who assassinated Washington Post Jamal Khashoggi.

Four Saudis who participated in the 2018 killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the United States the previous year under a contract approved by the State Department, according to documents and people familiar with the arrangement…

The training was provided by the Arkansas-based security company Tier 1 Group, which is owned by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. The company says the training — including “safe marksmanship” and “countering an attack” — was defensive in nature and devised to better protect Saudi leaders. One person familiar with the training said it also included work in surveillance and close-quarters battle.

Such a training firm could have been owned by a non-PE owner as easily as a Cerberus, so there’s nothing inherent to the financing arrangement here. But there is a political element. Cerberus is politically connected. Trump nearly put the head of Cerberus, Stephen Feinberg, as a top official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Ownership tends to bring political connections for portfolio firms. And this training program was approved by the State Department.