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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In 2005, a top German politician famously referred to private equity as a "plague of locusts," long predating U.S. political hostility toward the industry. Now, private equity is about to learn if German sentiment has softened.

Driving the news: At least four PE groups are vying to buy the elevator business of German industrial conglomerate Thyssenkrupp, with expectations that the deal value could top $20 billion.

  • Also bidding is Kone, a Finnish elevator maker whose CEO publicly chided private equity's interest in the unit before teaming up with CVC Capital Partners.

Why it matters: Yes, elevators are boring. But they're also vital to urban development and the sort of reliable cash generator that makes buyout barons salivate.

  • Thyssenkrupp is the world's fourth-largest maker of elevators and escalators, but is selling the profitable unit in order to shore up an otherwise-troubled balance sheet.

The big picture: There have been some large buyouts of German targets since the "locusts" comment, such as Bain Capital and Cinven buying generic drugmaker Stada for around €4 billion in 2017, but nothing close to the size of what's being discussed with Thyssenkrupp.

The outcome of this deal could determine how private equity is viewed in Germany, and perhaps even elsewhere in Europe, for years to come. Both by regulators and by other potential targets.

  • If successfully purchased and managed (by someone other than Kone), then "locusts" will become little more than a fun footnote.
  • But, if financially engineered in a callous and/or calamitous way, private equity's future in the country will suffocate from its own swarm.

Go deeper: U.S. private equity firms raised record $300 billion in funding in 2019

Go deeper

N.Y. Times faces culture clashes as business booms

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New York Times columnist David Brooks' resignation from a paid gig at a think tank on Saturday is the latest in a flurry of scandals that America's biggest and most successful newspaper company has endured in the past year.

Driving the news: Brooks resigned from the Aspen Institute following a BuzzFeed News investigation that uncovered conflicts of interest between his reporting and money he accepted from corporate donors for a project called "Weave" that he worked on at the nonprofit.

America rebalances its post-Trump news diet

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Nearly halfway through President Biden's first 100 days, data shows that Americans are learning to wean themselves off of news — and especially politics.

Why it matters: The departure of former President Trump's once-ubiquitous presence in the news cycle has reoriented the country's attention.

2021 sees a record number of bills targeting trans youth

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Republicans in at least 25 states have introduced over 60 bills targeting transgender children — a legislative boom since January that has beaten 2020's total number of anti-trans bills.

Why it matters: LGBTQ advocates say the unprecedented push was catalyzed by backlash to Biden's election and the Supreme Court ruling that workers cannot be fired for being gay or transgender.