What Role Did Ken Langone Play In Spitzer's Fall?

by: Herb Greenberg

Conspiracy theorists are having a field day with the Eliot Spitzer story, and they have good reason: Wall Street titan Ken Langone, one of Spitzer’s archest of enemies, made it sound as though there’s more to the story.

Check out this transcript from a CNBC interview with Langone that aired on Tuesday:

CNBC: Would you say that you were surprised by this news?

: Not at all. I had no doubt about his lack of character and integrity. It would only be a matter of time, I didn’t think he would do it this soon or the way he did it. But I know for sure he went himself to a post office and bought $2,800 worth of mail orders to send to the hooker.

CNBC: How do you know that?

LANGONE: I know it. I know somebody who was standing in back of him in line….

Langone’s comments were pretty much ignored after they first aired until I brought it up again today while on Squawk on the Street. And I have to be honest: When I first saw that interview, I did a double-take and wondered if Langone really said what i thought I heard — and I’m not talking about whether the governor really went to the post office himself, waiting in line with the rest of us, to buy stamps, money orders or to mail a package.

Maybe Langone was being somewhat facetious about the post office, but he surely made it appear as though he knew ahead of time what Spitzer was up to.

There’s no surprise that everybody from the most powerful on Wall Street to the mob were out to take Spitzer down. (I mean, if you’re going after the mob, and you’re using prostitutes, my guess is your secret won’t be a secret for very long.) I was part of a discussion regarding this earlier on CNBC. My pal and sparring partner Charlie Gasparino, who has been actively attacking the business press for not being critical enough on Spitzer, tried to make the case it doesn’t matter whether Spitzer was set up.

I argued, or tried to argue, just the opposite. While what Spitzer did was a violation of the public trust, Langone’s comments suggest it wasn’t just the IRS doing its job that did him in. The biz press (especially Charlie, who is close to Langone) should be trying to figure out what Langone meant in his interview. (Would be a helluva scoop, Charlie, a helluva scoop.)

It was Charlie, after all, who in 2005 wrote in New York Magazine on the Spitzer/Langone feud: “Gesticulating with his big hands, he looks at me and says pointedly, “One way or another, Spitzer is going to pay for what he’s done to me and the havoc he's caused in the New York business climate.”

So, let me ask the question again: What role did Langone play? Inquiring minds do want to know. I called Langone’s office and was told he’d have to get back to me. Yeah, right. I won’t be holding my breath for a return call. (Though if he does call, I’ll pass what he says along to you.)


After I reiterated the story last night on CNBC, his spokesperson wrote CNBC saying:

After the news broke, Ken was told by a friend what the friend had seen. Ken should have qualified it as such; that it was second-hand information and Ken had no involvement in witnessing the mail order. Ken had no first-hand knowledge of the money order and no first-hand knowledge of the incident. He didn’t witness the money order or anything to do with the incident.

Of course, the attempted clarification doesn’t really dispute what he originally told CNBC. He originally said, which great confidence and specificity, that he knew somebody who was behind Spitzer at the post office. Now he says he knew someone who allegedly saw Spitzer at the post office. In other words, the person behind Spitzer, no? Or yes? Or maybe?

Sounds like a bunch of doublespeak by someone who either said more than he should have or someone whose oversized ego caught up in the moment and wanted to pretend to know more than he really does.

You decide.

The beat goes on….