Posts Tagged ‘economic ruin’

“In early 1995, as the Ampad paper plant in Marion, Ind., neared its shutdown following a bitter strike, Randy Johnson, a worker and union official, scrawled a personal letter to Mitt Romney, pouring out his disappointment that Romney, then chief executive of the investment firm that controlled Ampad, had not done enough to settle the strike and save some 200 jobs,” writes Robert Gavin of the Boston Globe in an article titled As Bain slashed jobs, Romney stayed to side

“We really thought you might help,” Johnson said in the handwritten note, “but instead we heard excuses that were unacceptable from a man of your prominent position.”

Romney, who had recently lost a Senate race in which the strike became a flashpoint, responded that he had “privately” urged a settlement, but was advised by lawyers not to intervene directly. His political interests, he explained, conflicted with his business responsibilities.

Now, Romney’s decision to stay on the sidelines as his firm, Bain Capital, slashed jobs at the office supply manufacturer stands in marked contrast to his recent pledges to beleaguered auto workers in Michigan and textile workers in South Carolina to “fight to save every job.”

Throughout his 15-year career at Bain Capital, which bought, sold, and merged dozens of companies, Romney had other chances to fight to save jobs, but didn’t. His ultimate responsibility was to make money for Bain’s investors, former partners said.

Much as he did when running for Massachusetts governor, Romney is now touting his business credentials as he campaigns for president, asserting that he helped create thousands of jobs as CEO of Bain. But a review of Bain’s investments during Romney’s tenure indicates that job growth was not a particular priority.

Romney’s approach at Bain Capital was more reflective of the economic philosophy articulated by his opponent, John McCain: to acknowledge that some less efficient jobs will be lost and concentrate on creating new jobs with potential for higher growth.

In many cases, such as Staples Inc., the Framingham retailer, and Steel Dynamics Inc., an Indiana steelmaker, the companies expanded and added thousands of jobs. In other cases, such as Ampad and GS Industries, another steelmaker, Bain-controlled companies shuttered plants, slashed hundreds of jobs, and landed in bankruptcy.

But in almost all cases Bain Capital made money. In fact, the firm earned substantially more from Ampad than Staples. Staples returned about $13 million on a $2 million investment; Ampad yielded more than $100 million on $5 million, according to reports to investors.

“It’s not that employment grows, it’s that their investment grows,” said Howard Anderson, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. “Sometimes its expansion, and sometimes it’s shutting things down” [...]

[...] Bain acquired GS Industries in 1993. The steelmaker borrowed heavily to modernize plants in Kansas City and North Carolina, as well as pay dividends to Bain investors. But as foreign competition increased and steel prices fell in the late 1990s, the company struggled to support the debt, according to Mark Essig, the former CEO. GS filed for bankruptcy in 2001, and shut down its money-losing Kansas City plant, throwing some 750 employees out of work.

Ampad, too, became squeezed between onerous debt that had financed acquisitions and falling prices for its office-supply products. Its biggest customers – including Staples – used their buying power and access to Asian suppliers to demand lower prices from Ampad.

Romney sat on Staples’s board of directors at this time.

Creditors forced Ampad into bankruptcy in early 2000, and hundreds of workers lost jobs during Ampad’s decline. Bain Capital and its investors, however, had already taken more than $100 million out of the company, in debt-financed dividends, management fees, and proceeds from selling shares on public stock exchanges.

By the time Ampad failed, Randy Johnson, the former union official in Marion, Ind., had moved on with his life. After the Indiana plant shut down, he worked nearly six months to help the workers find new jobs. He later took a job at the United Paperworkers union.

“What I remember the most,” said Johnson, “were the guys in their 50s, breaking down and crying.”

In his reply to Johnson’s letter, Romney said the Ampad strike had hurt his 1994 bid to unseat Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and no one had a greater interest in seeing the strike settled than he.

“I was advised by counsel that I could not play a role in the dispute,” Romney explained, adding, “I hope you understand I could not direct or order Ampad to settle the strike or keep the plant open or otherwise do what might be in my personal interest” [...]

Yuh-huh. See:

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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