Bain (The Man) Speaks Out

Photograph by David L Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Mitt Romney, head of Bain & Company, Inc.

We’ve heard from Bain, the Firm. Now there’s something (a little something) from Bain, the Man.

The Daily Beast coaxed the hyper-private Bill Bain into addressing the criticism directed at his namesake firm and his protégé Mitt Romney’s tenure there with “Powerpoint-style precision.”

Says Bill Bain: “The unfair attacks are not worth responding to,” according to the story, but he kind of does: “Bain Capital was founded in 1984 to create value. The founding partners took risk in starting this venture, but succeeded in raising their first fund and in investing it well to create value for their investors.”

Bain Capital, which Bill Bain tapped Romney to start almost three decades ago, has backed and bought the likes of Sports Authority, Domino’s Pizza and Dunkin Donuts over the years, pushing it deep into the fabric of the U.S. and global economies. Romney has touted his experience at Bain until 1999, when he left to run the Salt Lake City Olympics and subsequently run (successfully) for governor of Massachusetts and (we’ll see in two weeks) for president.

His opponents, starting last year in the Republican primary and now in the general election, have said Romney’s experience shows a record of closing factories and outsourcing or slashing jobs. Bill Bain says: “Business is a risk-reward proposition,” says Bain. “For over 28 years, Bain Capital has invested in many great success stories and some failures.”

Romney has touted his record of creating jobs while at Bain, claiming responsibility for more than 100,000 during his time atop Bain. It’s a key part of his pitch to an electorate that’s laser focused on economic issues.

Bain Capital has been relatively quiet amid the criticism of its former chief, its history, and the private equity industry at large. The Boston firm has continued about its business, raising a new Asia focused fund earlier in 2012 as well as a new flagship fund and nurturing its investments in companies like Bloomin’ Brands (operators of Outback Steakhouse) and scrapbooker heaven Michaels Stores. The broader industry, through occasional interviews and speeches and a campaign by the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, has sought to counter the portrayal with case studies about successful investments at companies like KKR-backed Dollar General.

The private equity meme has gone well beyond the argument about its practitioners and Romney’s role in the broader economy. Its historical secrecy, and some business practices like its tax treatment and sometimes hard-edged strategies, play well in a country still licking its financial crisis wounds. Romney’s tenure in business, critics argue, also taught him how to pay less taxes and accrue wealth reaching a quarter-billion dollars.

Being a rich guy with what he thought was a sterling resume has brought him to the brink of the election in what’s basically a tie.

Still, having his mentor — a slightly older, very successful white man and reliable Republican contributor — may not sway a lot of undecided voters to the Romney camp.

Bill Bain may be a big name, but Romney’s got binders full of guys like that.

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