It has become fashionable to demonize ‘‘Bain’’ as some sort of monster of greed. Even the president and his followers would have us believe that Bain and its one-time leader, Mitt Romney, care only about profits, never people. We are told that Bain delights in seizing weak companies, firing their staffs, amassing amoral fortunes, and fleecing decent working folk.
That certainly doesn’t sound like a very compassionate business, much less the sort to produce someone we would want as our next president. But are these attacks true?
I began my business career at Bain & Company, the management consulting firm, in 1977, when the organization had one office in Boston and fewer than 30 employees. Mitt Romney joined us a few months later and I worked alongside him for two years. After business school, I was hired by a Michigan company where I served as assistant to the CEO responsible for corporate acquisitions.
Rough times lay ahead. Our company CEO was fired by his board for ignoring the economic downturn of 1981/82, and my own future looked bleak. Then Mitt called. He said, “I know you’re in a tricky spot, Bill, and wondered if you’d come back to Boston to join us here at your real home, Bain.” With a wife and two young kids to provide for, Mitt’s offer was a lifesaver. Later I worked with him as he developed Bain Capital, the private equity firm, which he founded with Bill Bain.
Fast forward to 1990. Bain & Company was fighting to survive. The firm had acquired debt and the interest payments would soon crush us unless we could sell the company or restructure. Bill Bain decided to sell and asked me to help. We tried, but the right offer was elusive. I finally had to inform him that we had run out of suitors. Bain asked me whether it made sense for Mitt Romney to return and step in as CEO. “If Mitt is willing to,” I said,“it is by far the best solution.”
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