Bain Capital and several other buyout firms are considering making a bid to take Staples Inc. private, according to a report published on Thursday on Fortune.com.
Staples, the Framingham office supply chain, started with backing from Bain Capital in 1986. It reported in August that quarterly earnings had plunged 32 percent, sending shares tumbling to their lowest level since March 2003.
Owen Davis, a Staples spokesman, declined to comment, and a Bain Capital spokesman also would not discuss the matter.
Takeover discussions are preliminary, and a bid would not be made for Staples until later this year so that the firms could line up financing and avoid bad publicity with the upcoming presidential election, Fortune.com reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who served as chief executive at Bain, cites Staples as one of his top business successes. Staples could fetch $9.6 billion, assuming a 20 percent premium on the company's current market capitalization, Fortune.com reported.