Former investment banker engineers biggest bailout

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2008 (AFP) – US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is a wealthy former Wall Street CEO and free-market thinker who has made a radical turn to help engineer the most extensive government bailout of the US economy in decades.

Paulson, 62, two years ago swapped his post as CEO of the venerable Goldman Sachs investment firm for the helm of the US Treasury, to which he was the third secretary appointed by President George W. Bush during his two terms in office.

With his gravelly voice and hunched six-foot-two (1.88 meter) frame, the avid environmentalist and former college football star spent much of the past week as the public face of the government’s 700 billion dollar economic rescue plan.

“I hate the fact that we have to do it. But it’s better than the alternative,” Paulson told Fox news on Sunday, describing the bailout decision as being “overwhelmingly obvious.”

Paulson, a tee-totaller, devout Christian and keen bird-watcher, enjoys walking and kayaking at weekends at home with Wendy, his wife of 39 years.

But he hasn’t been at home much in weeks, or in his corner office adorned with Wendy’s photographs of birds in the Treasury building in Washington, instead spending hours in the fortress-like skys