It’s been widely publicized and often stated by presidential candidate Mitt Romney that one of the Bain Capital’s goals was to acquire companies and which would not only produce profits for investors but also jobs that would enhance the U.S. economy. But as recent as Thursday, Mother Jones magazine has released a video, which explicitly says that Romney’s private equity firm would primarily acquire companies and “harvest them at a significant profit.”
The video further revealed Romney saying, “Bain Capital is an investment partnership which was formed to invest in startup companies and ongoing companies, then to take an active hand in managing them and hopefully, five to eight years later, to harvest them at a significant profit.” Romney’s says it could take up to eight years to achieve his intended success with each company acquired by “Bain Capital,” and yet given the enormous complexity of the U.S. economy, we are to believe it will take him less years to turn around unemployment around.
He continued: “We recognized that we had the potential to develop a significant and proprietary flow of business opportunities. Secondly, we had concepts and experience which would allow us to identify potential value and hidden value in a particular investment candidate. And third, we had the consulting resources and management skills and management resources to become actively involved in the companies we invested in to help them realize their potential value.”
Romney’s own words at Bain suggest that his top priority wasn’t to boost employment. As the Wall Street Journal recently noted, creating jobs “wasn’t the aim of Bain or other private-equity firms, which measure success by returns produced for investors.” Moreover, the newspaper reported, Romney’s 100,000-jobs claim is tough to evaluate.
In the video, Romney describes Bain’s formation, showing how he viewed the firm’s mission. He explained that its goal was to identify potential and hidden value in companies, buy significant stakes in these businesses, and then “harvest them at a significant profit” within five to eight years.
Here’s the transcript taken from the video containing Romney’s comments:
Bain Capital is an investment partnership, which was formed to invest in startup companies and ongoing companies, then to take an active hand in managing them and hopefully, five to eight years later, to harvest them at a significant profit…The fund was formed on September 30th of last year. It’s been about 10 months then. It was formed with $37 million in invested cash. An additional $50 million or so of what I’ll call a call pool, which is money that we can call upon if the deals are large enough that they require more than a $2 or $3 million dollar initial investment. Why in the world did Bain and Company get involved in this kind of a business? We’re not particularly noted for having years and years of experience in financing. Three reasons. We recognized that we had the potential to develop a significant and proprietary flow of business opportunities. Secondly, we had concepts and experience which would allow us to identify potential value and hidden value in a particular investment candidate. And third, we had the consulting resources and management skills and management resources to become actively involved in the companies we invested in to help them realize their potential value.
The CD-ROM was a hip-hip-hooray for Bain & Company—in one video, an employee noted that the operating principle of the firm is “never lose sight of the fact that there is at least a 1 percent chance that you may not know the answer or the answer you have may be wrong”—and it was produced for distribution to the firm’s employees and clients. The video did not note where Romney made these remarks about the origins of Bain Capital. But this short clip offers a glimpse of Romney when he was at the start of his private equity career and saw businesses as targets of opportunity that could be harvested for the benefit of his investors, not as long-term job creators or participants in a larger community. His remarks were hardly surprising, but they did encapsulate the mindset of get-in/get-out private equity deal makers.
The CD-ROM, which was given to Mother Jones by a former Bain & Company employee, also provides a look at the corporate culture of the consulting firm. Here’s how Bainiacs poked fun at themselves, sketch-comedy-style:
The CD-ROM contained no footage of Romney singing or cutting up when he was a prominent player at the consulting shop, which was before Bill Bain, its founder, pushed Romney to leave Bain & Company to create and lead Bain Capital. There is only that one video of Romney discussing his private equity firm in its first months. In this clip, Romney mentioned that it would routinely take up to eight years to turn around a firm—though he now slams the president for failing to revive the entire US economy in half that time.