Scaramucci Awaits Trump Role, Recalls a Plastic-Handcuff CrimeBy
Financier honored at Italian-American gala where Piscopo sings
Virtu’s Vinnie Viola, Matilda Cuomo, Maria Vullo attend
At the National Italian American Foundation’s New York gala Wednesday night, comedian Joe Piscopo did his “Saturday Night Live”-minted impression of Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York.” He also introduced Anthony Scaramucci, who was receiving an award for special achievement in business and financial services -- though Piscopo, who’s considering a New Jersey gubernatorial run, focused on Scaramucci’s recent role in politics.
“When I walked into the Hilton, there was one guy going, ‘We got this, we got this,’” Piscopo said, placing himself with Scaramucci at President Donald Trump’s headquarters on election night. “You know what? They did have it. He knew. Politics aside, raising the funds that he did, and actually helping to put a man in the White House -- and the guy was an Italian American.”
Scaramucci received some applause from the guests at Cipriani 42nd Street, but he’s still waiting for a greater reward. He’d agreed to sell his SkyBridge Capital to HNA Group and another investment firm to prepare for a role as director for the Office of Public Liaison in the White House, but he was taken out of consideration on Feb. 1, the same day the New York Times ran a front-page article about HNA’s opaque ownership structure and ties to the Chinese government.
“I take Chief of Staff Reince Priebus at his word, and Steve Bannon, that once my deal gets closer to closing that there will be a job for me in the administration,” Scaramucci said in an interview. “What that exactly is, I don’t know.”
In the meantime, as he waits for the SkyBridge deal to close, there’s one of the firm’s famous SALT conferences to plan. Former Vice President Joe Biden will speak at the Las Vegas event in May. “I’m very focused like a laser on getting the investor consensus I need to close the transaction,” Scaramucci said. “The FTC has approved it, the HNA board has approved it, the SkyBridge independent fund board has approved the management change in control.”
Would it have been better to find a buyer from elsewhere? Italy?
“I have no regrets about that,” Scaramucci said. “We live in a very tough political society right now.” He added that he’d turned down a higher bidder who’d wanted to liquidate employees. “I’m proud of the decisions I’ve made. I don’t look back.”
There was another guest at the event who had his own near-miss with a Trump appointment -- of his own choosing: Vinnie Viola, founder of Virtu Financial, bowed out of being appointed Secretary of the Army.
But even without Viola and Scaramucci, there are Italian Americans working closely with Trump.
“Mike Pompeo and Kellyanne Conway are proud Italian Americans,” John Viola, president of the National Italian American Foundation and a son of Vinnie Viola, said. “At the same time in the Obama administration, Jim Messina, the Podestas -- they’ve all been around the foundation. We are a community that has definitely arrived at the center of Washington on both sides of the aisle.”
On stage, Scaramucci advised guests not to use Ancestry.com, a service that had researched his DNA and determined he was 15 percent Greek. He also joked with fellow honoree Anthony Cammarata who, in noting the closeness of his family, mentioned that he and his eldest son work at Goldman Sachs, with his younger son starting a job there in July.
“I had no idea there were that many Italians at Goldman Sachs,” Scaramucci said.
Being an event celebrating Italian culture, there was a pasta first course (baked tagliolini with ham), tenors and priests, whose presence reminded Scaramucci of his first confession.
“I stole a pair of plastic handcuffs in kindergarten from a cops-and-robbers set. I was very guilty about it,” he said in the interview. “So now I’m going to make my Holy Communion in the second grade, and I’m trying to think of all the bad things -- and I had to tell the father I’d stolen the handcuffs. It was a bad day for me.”
The gathering had a real cop, albeit of the Wall Street type: Maria Vullo, superintendent of New York State’s Department of Financial Services, who received the Mario Cuomo Award for Public Service. Matilda Cuomo introduced her. And Metro Bank co-founder Vernon Hill and his wife, Shirley, were honored for their role investing in the Murano glass company Seguso Vetri D’Arte.