In the elite and predominantly male world of top media investment bankers, Jill Greenthal has made an extraordinary impression on people, not only for her accomplishments but for the way she achieves them.
“Brilliant,” “aggressive,” “determined” and “a whirlwind,” are the adjectives Dennis Leibowitz uses to describe his former colleague Greenthal. But Leibowitz, head of hedge fund Act II Partners, adds that Greenthal lacks the enormous ego that some bankers possess. “She's tough and demanding, and at the same time she's a very sweet person,” Leibowitz explains. “She's very focused, but she's not full of herself. You'll always see the human touch. It isn't just all business.”
With attributes like those, it's easy to see how Greenthal blazed such a stellar career path. A 1978 graduate of Simmons College in Boston, Greenthal received an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1983. After taking her first job in finance with Salomon Smith Barney, Greenthal moved on two years later to Shearson Lehman Bros. She stayed at Shearson for 10 years, eventually becoming head of its banking group before Leibowitz recruited her to join Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.
“One of the real reasons I went to DLJ was because I thought there could be nothing cooler in life than to hang out with Dennis Leibowitz, who was without question the best analyst in the cable and probably the media business,” Greenthal says. “So I thought as a banker if I could just hang out with that guy, how easy would it be to get business? It will be fabulous.”
She stayed at DLJ through its merger with Credit Suisse First Boston. In 2003, she left to join former DLJ boss, Tony James, at private equity giant The Blackstone Group, where she is senior managing director of corporate advisory services.
A native of Milwaukee and a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, Greenthal moved her base of operations to Boston in 1994, when her husband, Tom Eisenmann, decided to leave his job as a partner with consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to get his doctorate at Harvard. Eisenmann is now on the faculty at Harvard Business School and also heads the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing Executive Management program there.
“He's my secret weapon,” Greenthal says of her husband. “Without him and his understanding of what this job is all about, I'd never be able to do it. You can't be a woman in my business and be married with children without a husband who really gets it and is really supportive.”
Along the way Greenthal established a stellar reputation in the industry. Among the dozens of big deals she was involved with was Time Inc.'s 1989 merger with Warner Communications; the 1987 sale of Storer Communications to a consortium of MSOs; Wometco Cable's 1988 sale to Cablevision Industries; TCA Cable's 1999 sale to Cox Communications Inc. and Century Communications' 1999 sale to Adelphia Communications Corp.
Greenthal is probably best known outside of the insular world of investment banking for one of the biggest deals of all — Tele-Communications Inc.'s $70 billion sale to AT&T Corp. in 1998.
Greenthal led a team of 10 bankers from DLJ representing TCI on the deal, winning her firm a fee that at the time was the biggest in corporate banking history: $40 million. That deal was one of the more complicated in cable — TCI and its programming arm Liberty Media Corp. made up a confusing amalgam of partnerships and tracking stocks. But former TCI president Leo J. Hindery Jr. says that, in his mind, there was no one else but Greenthal for the job.
“Jill's style accommodated mine; I delegate a lot,” recalls Hindery, who now runs a fund called HL Capital. “She sees herself as a partner with a small 'P.' Some of these bankers are impossible to work with — they leave an impression that they're doing you a favor to come into your company and help you out.”
One of the key components to the TCI deal was the creation of the Liberty Media Corp. tracking stock, which was to be spun off separately from the cable systems. Tracking stocks were a new concept at that time — practically invented by then-TCI chairman John Malone. They represent shares that track a company's performance but are not backed by hard assets.
“Jill picked up on trackers like nobody alive. The Liberty spin, it made your nose bleed,” says Hindery. He notes that Greenthal was key in selling the tracking concept to AT&T's bankers, Goldman Sachs & Co. and Credit Suisse First Boston.
“If we hadn't figured out how to calm John [Malone] down and get Liberty out of there comfortably, the deal couldn't have happened,” says Hindery, who had worked with Greenthal before the TCI deal — she helped him set up his first cable company InterMedia Partners
While it wasn't easy for a woman to rise through the ranks of media investment banking in the early 1980s, Greenthal says that she “worked with role models early on.” What's more, “I have loved what I do. … I was fortunate to have been in the cable industry in a very robust time.”
Greenthal credits several former bosses for helping her rise through the industry ranks, including former Lehman partner Fred Siegel, who she says taught her how to be a good banker, and James, who has been supportive of her career at both DLJ and Blackstone.
She has also tried to help other women attempting to break into the field. One woman who worked for Greenthal at Lehman in a low-level position is now heading its financial sponsor business. Another is a partner at Lehman. Her children, a son, 12, and a daughter, 14, aren't likely to follow in their mother's footsteps, though. “They want to be scholars, like their father,” Greenthal says.