I’ve found my favorite quotation for this week. It comes from Luke Johnson, who runs the private equity firm Risk Capital Partners and is chairman of StartUp Britain. If anybody knows what experience in private equity means, he should know. In the Financial Times this week, Johnson explains the role of private equity in a capitalistic society and concludes, “I’m no fan of Barack Obama but to me, Mr Romney’s candidacy simply lacks all credibility.”
As Johnson explains, private equity is not concerned with social responsibility, the environment, or sustainability. Instead, its focus is laser-like on return for shareholders, making the maximum possible money. Creation of jobs plays no part in private equity decisions. All attention is on making partners, institutional investors, and buyout partners as wealthy as possible.
Johnson gives us a definition of what Bain Capital actually is – a buyout entity using debt to acquire companies, thus paying “less corporation tax than might otherwise have been the case.” The acquired companies are run to maximize profits for the owners, not to create jobs. Indeed, quite frequently private equity deals mean making decisions that result in “factory closures, lay-offs, disposals, cuts in capital expenditures,” and sometimes bankruptcy.
We are also told by Johnson how private equity firms are governed. They are “quasi-dictatorships.” The partners choose who the managers are, whether to pay out dividends, what will happen to a business. Johnson recognizes that government operates far differently. Presidents must balance the needs of all the American people, balance competing interests and social needs, and work with Congress.
I’ll end with yet another quotation that summarizes why a Willard “Mitt” Romney presidency would be a disaster. “I’ve never met a senior partner who shows even a fragment of the selfless devotion to public service that being the president must surely entail.” I agree completely…of course.
Mitt Romney was quite successful in taking the millions he inherited from his father and turning them into hundreds of millions of dollars, all the while using every trick in the tax code book to avoid paying taxes. That is not, repeat not, part of the resume of a potential president.
I am not attacking the role of private equity in our capitalistic society. It plays the role assigned to it. I simply believe that the skill set needed to be successful in that field is the opposite of what is needed to be my president. Luke Johnson agrees with me, and he heads a private equity firm.