Remember when Mitt Romney used his time with Bain Capital to assure us that he was the only candidate in the race who "understood job creation" because he had been in business and had "turned around" companies?
Yeah. Not so much. Thanks to David Corn over at Mother Jones, we have a new video of a much younger Willard Mitt Romney talking up the purpose of Bain Capital. Here it is in a nutshell straight from Willard himself:
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…
Just for some context, in 1985 Ronald Reagan was president, leveraged buyouts were at an all-time high, hostile takeovers were not unusual, and Bain Capital was riding that gravy train. According to Euromoney, 1985 was the year where LBOs doubled, despite warnings by Paul Volcker about their danger.
A 1999 article from Bloomberg Businessweek has a particularly good description of LBOs and their impact on not only the companies, but the investors who "harvest them". The focus of the article is Formica, the laminate manufacturer, who went through three separate LBOs in ten years. While the article discusses the impact on the company's market share and net profits, I think it's also safe to say jobs were considered "deadwood" to be cut away. Here's why Wall Street (and Mitt) loved them:
For instance, Wall Street loves to tout LBO successes. The typical story: Investors buy out the existing company, typically with substantial debt, perhaps 70%. Because of the leverage, the new owners, who own the bulk of the equity, have a strong incentive to aggressively streamline operations and get rid of all the deadwood. When the company is eventually sold, because so little equity was put in the deal, the returns are magnified. Current annual rates of return to the buyout artists are around 25%--below the 35% returns of the late 1980s, but still very lush.
In Formica's case, the private investors came out very well. If you had participated in LBO No. 1 in 1985 and sold out in LBO No. 2 in 1989, when Formica's cash flow was growing at about 14% a year, you would have made four to five times your investment. And if you had held on for 10 years, you would have made $10 for every dollar that you invested.
I liked this description from Jonathan Raban's 1988 book Hunting Mister Heartbreak: A Discovery of America:
It was meant to sound mysterious, for the leveraged buyout was basically a financial conjuring trick, a sleight of hand in which the success of the operator depended on his skill as an illusionist. It was the miracle of the loaves and fishes in reverse. It turned a lot of credit into an even greater quantity of debt, and then, if the illusionist had timed things right, it made a gigantic profit out of the debt.
Mitt Romney knew how to make a profit, how to be an illusionist, how to transfer the risk to individuals investing their retirement accounts in mutual funds and the stock market. What Mitt Romney has never known how to do is create jobs. He just told you that in the video.
It is Romney's profiteering during the most profligate era of our modern times that should repel every ordinary American. When he says he doesn't care about 47 percent of Americans, he's being honest. He didn't care about the people who lost their jobs because Mr. LBO Turnaround Guy loaded their company up with credit and then shut down operations to "streamline" them. His faith is in the Almighty Markets, where work is not a commodity but money and leverage is.
Romney is Reagan redux, with none of the charm and all of the greed.
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