Private, So What?


Bain Capital

From The Atlantic:

Mitt Romney wants you to know how much he loves the private sector. At the Tea Party Republican Debate hosted by CNN in Florida in September, Romney used his opening statement to tell America, “I spent my life in the private sector”—a point he reiterated repeatedly for anyone who’d missed it, or tuned in late.

His long-term relationship with the private sector, he went on to say, meant that he understood “how jobs come to America and why they go.” Later he rhapsodized: “I’ve competed with companies around the world. I’ve learned something about how it is that economies grow. It’s not just simple—wave a wand and everything gets better.” If he’d been doing this on Oprah, he’d have climbed on the couch like Tom Cruise, to shout “I love the free market!”

The son of George Romney, who was a former CEO of American Motors and governor of Michigan, Mitt received a joint J.D./M.B.A. from Harvard in 1975, and began his career at BCG, one of the world’s top-three management consultancies. He jumped two years later to Bain & Company, another of the top firms (the third is McKinsey), and worked there turning around struggling businesses until 1984, when he co-founded Bain Capital, the firm’s private-­equity spin-off. When Bain ran into trouble in 1990, it asked Romney to become the CEO and restore the firm to financial health—which he did in 1991 and 1992. After six more years at Bain Capital, and by then a very rich man, he left for a career in public service, running the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and becoming governor of Massachusetts.

Perhaps awed by this résumé, his debate opponents all failed to offer the obvious rebuttal: If he loved the private sector, why did he ditch it to seek public office? Romney’s last immersion in business was more than a decade ago; his last full-time job was as governor of one of the most liberal states in the country. The other Republicans onstage didn’t dare ask the question that ran through my mind as I watched this performance: How, exactly, did almost 25 years with Bain prepare Romney for the presidency?

“Romney’s Business”, Megan McArdle, The Atlantic