A Diva Fixing America Targets TV

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Lynn Tilton has been good to
small-town America, buying and rebuilding
failed manufacturing businesses and preserving

The question now is: Will she make good reality
TV? Tilton is CEO of Patriarch Partners,
which buys distressed companies (150 plus in
the last decade), gets them back on their feet
and helps retain jobs (250,000 of them by her
measure). Its portfolio now has 74 companies
with $8 billion in revenue.

“It’s not easy and we aren’t perfect,” she said.
“ It often takes us much longer than it should.
But we rebuild America.”

The subject of a vivid The Wall Street Journal
profile in January — which noted her
“platinum blond hair, tight leather skirts and penchant
for racy remarks” — Tilton, 52, is headed into production
of a reality show for Sundance Channel with a working
title Diva of Distressed.

“Up until recently I wasn’t as known as you would think
because I haven’t put myself out there,” she said after a
Sundance press briefing last week on a new slate
of nonfi ction shows. Sundance, she said, was
impressed by the actual impact of her work. “I
wasn’t going to go someplace where they were
going to make it silly because I don’t have a life,
you can’t follow me around, all I do is work.”

Michael Klein, the head of original programming
at Sundance, called her a force of nature,
and Sarah Barnett, the channel’s chief, aptly
called her “the real deal.”

Barnett also noted the irony that “she looks
slightly like a made-for-TV reality character, and
yet she’s been doing it for decades.”

A sizzle reel put together ahead of production
showed Tilton visiting the Old Town Fuel & Fiber
Mill, a Patriarch property in Maine that makes
pulp and paper — and also makes bio-butanol jet fuel. The
show, though, will direct her turnaround talents at businesses
she doesn’t own. “We want to go save company-town
companies, so we’re looking at that right now.”

Hopefully, we’ll see if the “fairy tale” turnarounds she engineers
in real life also work as reality TV.