Romney’s Stoppage Time at Bain
July 16th, 2012

Last Friday’s revelation that Mitt Romney was technically (or, “technically”) still CEO of Bain Capital from February 1999 to 2002 probably doesn’t mean much. In the grand scheme of things, the fact that Romney was still listed as being CEO and still signing corporate documents will probably fade in the face of the reality that he was professionally checked out from the gig and not doing much more beyond figurehead duties.

That said, the incident does provide another couple datapoints about Romney.

First, why is February 1999 the line in the sand? Is Romney suggesting that everything Bain did pre-2/99 was hunky-dory but that some of the stuff that came after it might have been problematic? If Bain is an admirable outfit and nothing that it did should give voters pause, then what does it matter to Romney? Shouldn’t he be willing to own everything that the company did even when he was only “technically” the CEO?

More importantly, the manner of Romney’s departure from Bain reminds me of how he got started with the company. Romney had the sweetest deal ever for a risk-taking entrepreneur: The idea for the business was not his. The money for the start-up was not his. If the start-up failed, he was promised that he could have his old job back, at an increased salary. And he was explicitly promised that if the start-up failed, his old company would make up a public excuse absolving him from personal failure. This isn’t a criticism–Romney succeeded and his company did great. It’s just worth remembering that even by the standards of successful millionaire entrepreneurs, Romney’s life has been highly atypical. He managed to wind up in a situation where whether he failed or succeeded, he’d do very, very well for himself.

(If I were cutting ads for Obama, I’d argue that this was synecdoche for the entire Bain business.)

In any event, here Romney is in February 1999 and he’s off to save the Olympics and maybe use that to springboard into politics and it’s a dicey proposition. And yet, Romney’s not working without a net. Because he’s still “technically” CEO of Bain Capital and if things don’t work out . . . well, he’ll be okay.

I don’t mean to make too much of this–at that stage in his career (or any stage, really), Romney was going to be okay no matter what. He was connected and wealthy and didn’t need a CEO fig-leaf to provide him with financial/professional security. But I do wonder what this says about Romney’s inherent approach to risk and how that would translate to the presidency.

Bonus Romney: In defending his decision not to release more of his tax returns, Romney decided to go with this approach:

He said his own campaign was happy to compare itself with Obama’s administration on transparency, citing president’s use of executive privilege to withhold documents related to the botched Fast and Furious program.

Wait–so unless I’m translating this wrong, Romney says he isn’t going to release his tax returns because Obama hasn’t released Fast and Furious documents. And two wrongs make a right. Or something.


  1. Galley Reader JH July 16, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    It’s still amazing that this was the best the Republican party could do.

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  3. SkinsFanPG July 17, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Except that it wasn’t the best the party could do. The best the party could do stayed on the sidelines. Daniels, Jeb, Perry, all better than Romney. Seriously, Rick Perry was hampered by pain pills, otherwise he’d be the nominee.

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  5. Evan July 17, 2012 at 9:48 am

    JVL, you seem to be treading awfully close to the Obama line of holding Romney’s successes against him or at least using his successes to illustrate his flaws while glossing over the actual achievement.

    Why not “Romney was SO good at what he did that he was able to leverage such a sweet deal” instead of minimizing his success by playing up the safety net that he was able to get?

    There’s just a strong parallel to your point here and the stuff that Leftists have been saying about the wealthy for decades. “He was connected and wealthy” so he could never fail… but how many connected and wealthy folks DO fail, and how many achieve what he has achieved?

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  7. buster July 17, 2012 at 10:24 am

    With regards to the update, you are translating it wrong. He’s not rebutting the demand to release the docs, he’s rebutting the resulting criticism that he is inadequately transparent to be elected President.

    I suppose any Romney critics who are also attacking the Obama administration over its “Fast and Furious” stonewalling can continue to make their case, but that seems like it would be a small cohort.

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  9. Galley Friend J.E. July 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    What does any of this matter? When the President of the United States declares that entrepreneurs aren’t really the puppet masters of their own success and the Republican nominee for president is embarrassed by his legitimate wealth, it’s time to go full Jeremiah Johnson.

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  11. Alvin Mullins July 18, 2012 at 11:56 am

    The only thing that destroys your premise is that Bain Capital was a risky endeavor and Romney negotiated that deal. He didn’t put a gun to Bain’s head to accept the deal.

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  13. Nedward July 18, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    So Romney was CEO of Bane Kapital for 8 years, or whatever, and since that’s such a manifestly easy job move for any of the multitudinous 1%er mustache-twirling fat cat greedheads out there (you know who I’m talking about), let’s demagogue this incessantly so that no one focuses on his more recent & relevant job, where he mandated health insurance exchange participation goodthink in the state of Massachusetts. Right?

    btw “here Romney is in February 2009 and he’s off to save the Olympics”–I was wondering why Vancouver added events for angling and croquet that year