Wall Street’s wild woman Lynn Tilton, the founder of Patriarch Partners, allowed ABC’s Barbara Walters into her secluded Jersey Shore mansion for a 20/20 interview that aired this weekend.
During their interview, Walters, who described Tilton as a “combination of Lady Gaga and Warren Buffett,” pointed to Tilton’s over-the-top attire.
“I’m a Gucci girl today,” Tilton said adding that she likes her skirts short.
Walter’s asked Tilton if she worries about the impression she gives people.
“I think I do it on purpose,” Tilton said. “That’s my sort of dust to diamonds persona.”
Walters, who noted Tilton owns four mansions worldwide, asked about her extravagances in life.
“I’m not extravagant for someone of my wealth,” said Tilton. “I love jewelry and I have a great wardrobe,” she said holding up a $12,000 Gucci dress.
Tilton showed Walters that she organizes her wardrobe by designer with Gucci on one side and Cavalli on the other. Her shoes fill up the massive shelf space in her closet and each pair is labelled with a photograph.
Tilton grew up in New Jersey and attended Yale. During her sophomore year of college her father passed away.
At age 23, she began her career on Wall Street. She said this time was difficult for her.
“My twenties were so difficult and so dark that I only remember it in shadowy details,” Tilton told Walters. “Because I lived in fear…fear of being a failure.”
During her stint on Wall Street, Tilton sued Merrill Lynch for sexual harassment.
“I was so beaten down by that experience that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stand up again,” she said.
Tilton told Walters that men would call her up at work and ask her what colour underwear she was wearing.
“So I sent a Christmas card out with red lace and a Santa hat withing them a Merry Christmas,” Tilton told Walters.
She told Walters her plan was to spend life away from Wall Street, but a dream brought her back.
“I had a dream of my father who told me that wasn’t what he had in mind for my life,” Tilton told Walters. “I’ve tried to keep my father proud.
Now she runs private equity firm Patriarch Partners, which she says is named for her father. Her firm buys companies no one else wants and turns them around hence her “dust to diamonds” philosophy.
However, Tilton has a reputation for ruthlessness in the workplace.
“I think I’m tough on everybody,” she told Walters. “I speak the truth and that means sometimes people don’t want ot hear exactly where they stand.”
She does hug her management team when they come in for meetings and when they leave even if “they don’t deserve it.”
As for the economy, she told Walters “we must create jobs or we will have violence in the streets of America.”
“There’s only one way to put the people back to work,” she says. “If you want to sell it in America, you need to make it in America.”
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