Last week, Matt Taibbi wrote Greed and Debt; The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital. The piece basically accused Romney of being a corporate raider and charged his industry with creating basically no value in the American economy.Now we’re getting some seriously educated reactions. Enter Dan Primack, Fortune’s dauntless private equity and venture capital reporter who writes a daily column on the minutia of the industry.
His rebuttal to Taibbi is called Greed, Debt and Matt Taibbi. It’s very simple. He goes through Taibbi’s article, finds the most dodgy passages, and responds.
Let’s look at some of the best parts:
TAIBBI: The private equity business in the early Nineties was dominated by a handful of takeover firms, from the spooky and politically connected Carlyle Group (a favourite subject of conspiracy-theory lit, with its connections to right-wingers like Donald Rumsfeld and George H.W. Bush) to the equally spooky Democrat-leaning arseholes at the Blackstone Group.
PRIMACK: Blackstone Group co-founders Steve Schwarzman and Pete Peterson would be very surprised to be described as “Democrat-leaning,” given their long-standing support for Republican candidates and causes. They probably also disagree with the “arseholes” part, although at least they’ve heard that one before.
To be fair, we were surprised when we read that the generally outspoken Republican, Schwartzman, was called a Democrat as well. Onto the next point.
TAIBBI: So Tricycle Inc. now has two gigantic new burdens it never had before Bain Capital stepped into the picture: tens of millions in annual debt service, and millions more in “management fees.” Since the initial acquisition of Tricycle Inc. was probably greased by promising the company’s upper management lucrative bonuses, all that pain inevitably comes out of just one place: the benefits and payroll of the hourly workforce.
PRIMACK: Or perhaps the company has enough cash flow to cover both in the short-term, while future growth (based on changes enacted by the PE firms) helps bump up profit. There are no hard and fast rules. Even when a PE firm does lay off portfolio company employees post-acquisition — not an uncommon occurrence — it isn’t always for financial reasons. Sometimes it’s because the new strategy is to de-emphasise or shut down a non-core part of the business, or a unit with declining growth (albeit one that is still profitable). Taibbi makes it sound like buy-then-fry is private equity’s modus operandi. It is not. And, in the long-term, private equity ownership does not have a significant impact on a company’s payroll.
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