Shortly after Mitt Romney took a leave of absence from Bain Capital to run the Olympics in February 1999, he made a trip to Palm Beach, Fla. The firm Romney founded was meeting to celebrate its 15th anniversary as well as the men he had helped make extraordinarily wealthy.
Romney and his partners had decided that, in his absence, five managing directors would oversee the company. And in Palm Beach it became clearer that Romney was unlikely to return — but would retain his title as chief executive officer and sole shareholder.
The Palm Beach meeting, which has not been previously reported, demonstrates the duality of Romney’s role as he parted ways with Bain, an issue that has sparked controversy in his presidential campaign. Romney has said in financial disclosure statements that he “was not involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way” after Feb. 11, 1999. But he was still legally the CEO, with numerous duties and obligations that were his alone, until early 2002.
Interviews with a half-dozen of Romney’s former partners and associates, as well as public records, show that he was not merely an absentee owner during this period. He signed dozens of company documents, including filings with regulators on a vast array of Bain’s investment entities. And he drove the complex negotiations over his own large severance package, a deal that was critical to the firm’s future without him, according to his former associates.
Indeed, by remaining CEO and sole shareholder, Romney held on to his leverage in the talks that resulted in his generous 10-year retirement package, according to former associates.
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