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Bill Clinton ends relationship with Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos.

By Carol Eisenberg

March 17, 2009 at 9:25am

Former President Bill Clinton has ended his high-profile business relationship with his friend Ronald Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos., including a politically sensitive partnership tie to Dubai that might have proved embarrassing to his wife.

While the former president could have claimed as much as $20 million in additional money from Yucaipa, he apparently decided not to, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The unwinding of his involvement with the Los Angeles-based private equity firm began in 2007 in anticipation of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In January, Hillary Clinton’s confirmation process for secretary of state sparked concerns about the multimillion-dollar donations Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation had received from foreign leaders and businessmen. But his Yucaipa connection attracted little attention even though it constituted one of Bill Clinton’s most direct financial ties to a foreign leader.

Clinton was one of the three owners of Yucaipa’s foreign fund’s general partner, along with Burkle and Dubai Investment Group (YGP) Ltd., an entity that was part of the business empire of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. As such, he received more than $12 million of partnership payments, the Journal reported.

The former president has had links to Yucaipa since early 2002, when Burkle - a longtime friend and political contributor - offered him a role as senior advisor. At the time, Clinton was looking to earn large amounts of money, partly to pay heavy legal bills accumulated to defend himself from several investigations during his presidency.

Clinton’s duties as a Yucaipa adviser were never completely clear to outsiders. He met at times with people involved in various Yucaipa business deals. Burkle has said that Clinton’s prestige and connections helped Yucaipa get its business proposals in front of top corporate decision makers.

But there were also tensions. The former president’s top aide, Douglas Band, who was also paid by Yucaipa, helped orchestrate a joint real-estate venture between Yucaipa and Italian businessman, Raffaello Follieri.

In 2007, Yucaipa sued Follieri for misappropriating money from the joint venture, and last year he pleaded guilty to federal criminal fraud charges. Follieri is serving a 54-month prison term.

Band has denied any improper actions and said he didn’t keep the money Follieri paid him.

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