Romney Said What Now About Staples?

I was being interviewed on another network at the time, so I didn't initially see Mitt Romney's interview on CNN tonight, the first to air of five he did trying to shoot down the Bain Shadow Years story.

So I only just now learned that he said this, when asked about having attended board meetings with Staples between 1999 and 2002:

“Bain Capital had already sold its shares or distributed its shares in Staples. And so my involvement with Staples was entirely on a personal basis,” Romney said. “I continued to be involved with the firm. But it was as a fiduciary for Staples, not as a representative of Bain Capital.”

This is true but somewhat misleading. The point he is trying to make is true: Bain had divested itself of its original stake, and Romney was just a regular old board member with about 50,000 shares in the company worth roughly $1 million or so.

But it is not true that Bain Capital had no significant holdings in Staples at that time.

According to Form 13F filed with the SEC, Bain's Brookside Capital Partners Fund held, as of the end of 1999, over 500,000 shares of Staples common stock, valued at approximately $11 million.

And one year later, that same fund held over three million shares of Staples, valued at $36 million.

The reason I make this point is to remind everyone of something I wrote in that 2007 article I keep linking to lately -- that the guy holding those 50,000 shares of Staples, who was also the owner/CEO/president of the fund loading up on 3 million shares of Staples, who was also the Staples board director flying back to Boston to attend board meetings, was also at that same time negotiating with Staples as the top salesman of the Salt Lake Olympic Games sponsorships:

In Turnaround, his 2004 book about his Olympics experience, Romney tells of the deal he offered to his friend Thomas Stemberg, founder and then-CEO of Staples, for that company’s sponsorship: his Olympics staff “would get to work lobbying SLOC board members and other corporate contacts to switch their office-supply contracts to Staples.”

Romney was on the Staples board at the time, and holding a financial stake in the company, as he was offering to use his SLOC leverage and staff to drum up business for the company, an apparent conflict of interest.

Apparent, indeed. 

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