Buyout Mania

American firms are buying European companies, slashing jobs, boosting profits. Are they sinners or saviors?

Hanns Ostmeier was stunned to pick up a popular German newspaper one recent Sunday and find a photo of himself along with several colleagues in a mock WANTED poster. Ostmeier's offense: he runs the German operations for the Blackstone Group, the big U.S. buyout firm. Blackstone isn't exactly a household name in Germany. But this spring, a top German politician named Franz M√ľntefering likened Blackstone and other private-equity groups to "swarms of locusts" that fall on companies and devour all they can before moving on. "Some financial investors don't waste any thoughts on the people whose jobs they destroy," said M√ľntefering,...

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