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Geoff Rehnert

Geoff Rehnert is co-chief executive officer of the investment firm Audax Group. Previously, he served as managing director of Bain Capital, which he helped start with Mitt Romney in 1984. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Gabrielle Tenenbaum and Michael Kirk on June 12, 2012. (41:54)

Geoff Rehnert is co-chief executive officer of the investment firm Audax Group. Previously, he served as managing director of Bain Capital, which he helped start with Mitt Romney in 1984. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Gabrielle Tenenbaum and Michael Kirk on June 12, 2012.

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    So let's just start at the beginning, and tell me how you first met Mitt Romney.

    I met Mitt when Bain Capital was getting started in 1984. I was a new associate with Bain & Company, the consulting firm. I was working in the Palo Alto, [Calif.,] office, having just graduated from graduate school.

    Mitt and Coleman Andrews, both of whom had been asked by Bill Bain to start Bain Capital, came through the offices. They were in process of raising the first fund. And shortly after that I received an offer to come back to Boston and be one of the two first associates to help start Bain Capital.

    So Mitt Romney and Coleman come to the office. And describe Mitt Romney for me at that time, physically sort of who he was, what you knew of him in the company.

    Mitt looks a lot today like he did then. He's got a few more gray hairs, there are a few wrinkles that he didn't have then, but he was a very dynamic presence. Immediately struck by his energy. There is kind of a charisma to him that is palpable, and very, very intelligent, bright, bright, bright person.

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    And so he comes to you and he offers you -- they have just started Bain Capital?

    So Bain Capital was in process of being raised. So Bain Capital was conceived as a part of Bain & Company initially. So Bill Bain and his partners at Bain & Company thought that if they could do for the companies that they invested in or that they bought what they were doing for their clients that they would be even more profitable than just doing it on a consulting basis, so that was the whole concept behind Bain Capital.

    So Bill took two of the brightest, most capable vice presidents in the organization, Mitt and Coleman, and asked them to head up this new undertaking.

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    Tell me who Bill Bain was. Describe him for me.

    Bill was the founder of Bain & Company. He is still alive today. He was a very charismatic salesman who did a great job building what at the time was the second largest strategy consulting firm. I believe today Bain & Company still is, probably after McKinsey, the second largest strategy consulting firm.

    But in a period of about 10 years, Bain & Company went from starting at its inception to being among the leaders in its business. Bill and a group of other colleagues who left the Boston Consulting Group built this up into a very dynamic organization that was hiring the best talent out of the top business schools in the country in the early 1980s. And strategy consulting was really just sort of hitting its peak at that particular time. That was the hot business to be in at that period in time. ...

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    Launching Bain Capital

    We've heard stories about Mitt sort of rallying the troops and kind of giving speeches. Tell me about the team of you that they brought together and what you set out to do.

    Yeah. Well, it's interesting, because Mitt had speaking skills and skills that suited him well in a large organization, but Bain Capital for the first four or five years was a very small organization. There was really a team of just four or five of us that invested that first fund. The first fund was raised at the end of 1984. It was a total of $37 million. At the time that was the largest first-time venture capital fund that had ever been raised. It was a nascent industry at the time. But it was a cottage industry, and the firms were all small, so we were a very small organization. So Mitt, his large-organization skills weren't as applicable to what we were doing.

    So what Mitt really did in the first several years was dig into the business itself and teach himself the business, because we were all new to venture capital. None of us had done leveraged buyouts; none of us had done venture capital investing. We were ex-consultants who had done very well in the strategy consulting arena, but this was a new industry, and Mitt, he rolled up his sleeves right alongside of us, and he dove in.

    And what were the risks of what were you doing? What was the challenge that stood in front of you?

    Well, the risks were that we would one, lose money; we would lose our investors' money, which we took that responsibility very seriously.

    The other risk was we would embarrass Bain & Company. Bain & Company had established a tremendous reputation, was selling its advice to large corporate clients, and so if we went out and we made a series of bad investments that lost money, it would reflect very poorly on Bain & Company.

    So we felt an enormous amount of pressure to be thoughtful, careful, and choose our initial investments wisely.

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    I've heard the word "nervous" put next to his name. Was he a nervous guy?

    Mitt felt a lot of pressure. He was under an inordinate amount of pressure. He's someone who was used to being successful, used to being at the top of whatever it was he did. He was now entering into a new business where not only did he have to worry about figuring out how to get into that business, competing with some firms who had been doing it for a long time, very smart people, but he also had an audience of his peers, the partners at Bain & Company, looking very carefully at what he did.

    And Mitt was doing this with a young group of us who were all new to this business, so it was a big challenge. He felt a lot of pressure, and he felt a lot of responsibility to the people that he had raised money from to be successful.

    And who were those people that you were raising money from?

    The first fund was mostly individuals. The largest group of capital came from the partners of Bain & Company themselves, so there was a lot of pressure. We weren't just investing the reputation; most of the partners at Bain Capital put up a sizable portion of their net worths at that time to invest in this undertaking. They believed that much in the concept, and they had that much confidence that Mitt would figure it out.

    Were you the person that told the tie-flapping story, that he would --

    I think a lot of people have told that story.

    So tell me that.

    But yeah. There would be times where Mitt would sort of jokingly sit and flap his tie like, "Oh, man, this thing better work out." But he would do it playfully when we would be in a small group and sort of try to break the ice. Of course we were all nervous ourselves as well, but I think he particularly felt the pressure.

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    'None of us thought we would be the poster children for class warfare.'

    And the infamous photograph with the money in your hands -- tell me about that picture and the origins of it.

    Yeah. Well, that. We were posing for the first brochure. We had raised our first fund, and so we now needed to have some collateral materials to hand out to potential companies that we would invest in or acquire or intermediaries who would bring us companies. And so we had a very serious version of that shot where we were all standing there.

    And then we said, "Jeez, we just raised the fund; let's do a playful shot," and thought that it would be kind of amusing, kind of like celebrating your first paycheck or that kind of a celebration.

    None of us thought we would be the poster children for class warfare. I don't think any of us ever envisioned that there would be class warfare. That's what I find just so sad about this, is even five years ago, when that picture came out, people thought it was kind of funny and cute. I think it's sad that today it's being distorted to represent something that, one, is not there in Mitt's character. Mitt is not a person who flaunts money, and he's not about the money. And secondly, I just think it's tragic that people are sort of resentful of people who have been successful.

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    Talk to me a little bit more about that first idea, that he's not someone that the money matters. For people that don't know him, explain.

    For him, the wealth was never the primary motivation. Mitt is a person who wants to be successful. Making money is how you're measured in the private equity and venture capital business, but you're making money for your investors first and foremost, and that was always Mitt's focus, was to make money for them.

    Mitt is not a guy who spends a lot of money on himself. I know people say he's got a big home in California, but he's a 65-year-old guy who has been tremendously successful and spends relatively modestly relative to other people of his stature on his own personal needs.

    He is a guy who is very thrifty. He is cheap to a fault, and never spent a lot of money while we were building Bain Capital. Always drove a modest car, had a Chrysler New Yorker or a pickup truck, and never a guy who was primarily driven by money.

    He was a guy who was first and foremost about his family and about his church. Building a successful business was really important to him, but he would have striven to be successful regardless of what the industry was that he was in. ...

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    Just sort of looking at that picture, Mitt sort of standing in the center, he looks sort of the senior. He's a little bit out of place. He looks a little more firm in his standing. So describe that guy.

    Well, Mitt was older than the rest of us. Mitt was only 36 or 37. I was 26 at the time. The rest of us were in our mid-20s to maybe 30 years old. So he was the senior person in that group, and so he was clearly the leader. Still, 36, 37 is relatively young, but Mitt already had five children at that point and had lived a lot of life already.

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    BainRomney as a Leader

    And describe his leadership style.

    I'd say first and foremost Mitt leads by example. He is a person who never asks anybody to do something he wouldn't do himself. At least that was my experience of Mitt in the private equity business. He was running numbers himself; he was working on legal documents, figuring out how to structure investments. No detail was too small for him to get involved in, which shocked me. I never expected a person at his stature and his stage of life to dive in. He wouldn't even ask secretaries to make copies for him a lot of times.

    So he, Mitt, I think, first and foremost would be what I'd call a referent leader, someone that you look to and say, "OK, that is the way you do things."

    I'd say the next thing that really stands out about the way he leads is he is willing to make a decision, but he rarely tells people what to do. He likes to have spirited debate among the people working for him and with him. He believes that that kind of interaction leads to a better outcome than just command and control and sort of one person unilaterally making decisions. And he, I think, did a tremendous job. I think Bain Capital's track record proves out how effective that was. It was tremendously successful at Bain Capital. ...

    So as a young 20-something-year-old in that room being asked to come before him and debate, what was that like for you? Tell me about that experience.

    I was a pretty brash 26-year-old, so I enjoyed it. I enjoyed feeling like my opinion was valued and mattered.

    Mitt would argue the opposite side, even if he agreed with me, just to pressure-test my thinking and the thinking of others. He would really pressure-test it, which sometimes, if I really felt like it was so obvious we ought to do something or not do something, it would be challenging. But it really was demanding and intellectually rigorous, and it's something that developed my intellect and enhanced my capabilities enormously.

    So it's something that, particularly as time went on, I really came to appreciate, and then saw as Bain Capital grew and evolved how as we added people and as we developed competence in different areas and started new lines of business that that model really led to better decision making, better communication, and it actually got people to sort of deflate their egos. And that was a relatively novel way of managing in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Tell me what you mean by that. How did it make you deflate your egos?

    It meant that at the end of the day, the team and the organization was more important than any one of us. And Mitt put himself in that. There were deals Mitt advocated and advocated for and we didn't do oftentimes. If a majority of people didn't want to do it and could put forth intellectually strong arguments, based on analysis, based on facts, he would back off.

    So it really became about what is the right answer, what is true, not about who is more powerful than who and who is more important than who. And that's unusual in most organizations. Most businesses, that's typically in my experience not how things work.

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    Investing in Staples

    Tell me how the Staples deal came around.

    So Tom Stemberg hired a small investment bank here in Boston to try to raise money for him. It came over to us at Bain Capital in our relatively early days in the early part of 1986. And we were still in that stage where we hadn't quite yet hit our stride. And Tom came over, met with Mitt and a couple of us, and wound up finishing writing his business plan in our offices. We did a lot of analysis to validate Tom's concept that businesses, small businesses in particular, didn't know how much they were spending on office supplies.

    So Mitt is a very data-driven person, and Tom said: "The opinions you're hearing are not accurate. Go actually pull the invoices from these companies." So we had one of our analysts, Adam Kirsch, actually go through a lot of invoices of a lot of small businesses in the area, and we would ask them, "How much do you think you're spending on office supplies?" And we'd get one answer from the purchasing manager, the small business owner, and then we would pull the invoices, and we'd see they were actually spending huge, huge amounts relative to what they thought they were spending on office supplies.

    So when we went and said, "If you knew you were spending this much on office supplies, would you be willing to actually go pick up your supplies, as opposed to have somebody deliver them to you if you could save a significant amount?" And almost everyone said: "Yeah. I had no idea we were spending this much. Absolutely I would have someone go to a store." So that was the validation of the Staples concept.

    We opened the first store -- I think it was late 1986 when the first store opened in Brighton, [Mass.,] and it's been off to the races ever since for Staples. ...

    In terms of that sort of idea, you said he is a data-driven guy. And as I understand, he was a bit skeptical at first. And then is it the data that convinced him?

    Mitt is a data-driven person, and he is terrific at not just accepting data on face value but first of all cleaning the data, making sure that data is meaningful, and then he is terrific at analyzing it.

    And that was a rigorous discipline that underlied [sic] every investment we made. Everything we did at Bain Capital was very data-driven. Enormous amounts of analysis went into every investment, and actually went into how we ran ourselves and evaluated ourselves. So Mitt is a big believer that thoughtful people gathering data, analyzing it, figuring out what works, what doesn't work can lead to newer, better ways. ...

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    I want to skip aside a little bit. And you said family and his faith are the two things that matter most. So let's stick with family first. Explain that to me and how that played out and what you saw.

    I got to know Mitt pretty well. I worked with him for 15 years. I sat next to him for a good portion of that time and down the hall for the rest of the time, traveled with him on long trips and that sort of thing.

    I was really struck by his relationship with his wife, Ann, first and foremost. Just it's the best marriage I've ever seen. And he truly loves her in a way that struck me as a 26-year-old guy, I looked at it and said, "Jeez, that's a remarkable thing to have." And it's evident that that is still the case today.

    What role does she play for him?

    She's important to him. I think she gives meaning and purpose to what he does in his life. She's his partner in every sense of the word. And I have never heard him say a harsh word towards her, about her. And even when I knew he saw things differently than she did, he weighed her opinion heavily and valued it.

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    They obviously raised five sons together. They're a terrific family. And they are very committed to one another, to their family.

    And then their faith was also an integral part of their relationship and their lives. Mitt was not only starting a business in an industry he didn't know and raising five sons, but he also was head of his church in eastern Massachusetts and spent a lot of time, nights, Sundays, doing work in the community, helping people, not just sort of delegating and managing but actually going out performing service work. And Ann was part of that.

    And he didn't just do it within the church. He did it for others. When I adopted my first son, the first day I brought him home the first visitors at the house were Mitt and Ann that night. And it was a work night and they had five kids of their own at home doing homework, and had other things, and he still took the time to drive out to my home and congratulate me and bring a few gifts to help me get started. ...

    And just sticking with that idea of his faith and the time he was giving to the church, you were working with him daily, and so as I understand he would go home on certain nights and have to do -- as he was serving as bishop he would be counseling, or on the weekends. So tell me about that and how he split his time between work and church.

    At the time Mitt was head of the church, it remarkably never seemed to interfere with what we were doing at Bain Capital. If we had an urgent deal that we were working on, that came first. Mitt would be able to either get someone to cover for him or he could figure out how to work around it. ...

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    And are there examples of the way that his faith carried into his business dealings? Did you see that displayed?

    Mitt never made anyone feel uncomfortable about his faith. I was raised Roman Catholic, and I had never met a Mormon until I met Mitt, and so I was curious, so I would just ask him when we would be on business trips. But it never came up in any sort of way, shape or form in how we did business.

    The things that were notable about Mitt were he didn't swear; he didn't drink, but he never made anybody else feel uncomfortable for drinking. So drinking was a big part of -- continues to be a big part of business entertainment at times. [He was] always comfortable [with] people having drinks or cocktails. No one wanted to get sloppy drunk if you were working for him. That's not a good practice no matter who you're working for, I suspect. But it was nothing that made anyone uncomfortable.

    But Bain Capital had a different culture. I would say it was a healthier culture. Guys tended not to drink probably as much as the certain other firms, and family time was respected. ...

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    There is one story that I've read about where there was the deal, I think the movie business, where he felt that it in some ways was in conflict with his religion, and he behaved differently on that one.

    Sure. Yeah, there was a company in the entertainment business that Bain Capital, after a lot of debate back and forth, decided that a small investment made sense. And at Bain Capital we personally invested alongside of our investors so that we would have a personal stake alongside of our investors. 

    And Mitt felt that he owed it to the investors to allow the fund to go into this deal, because at the end of the day we were fiduciaries, and our duty was to return money to the investors, but that personally he preferred not to have a personal ownership stake, just given that he felt that his principles would be inconsistent with making R-rated movies, which the company did occasionally. But it was more of a symbolic gesture, because there were plenty of other people who were happy to take his investment.

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    You said following the Staples deal, it was off to the races. You all became very successful, so tell me just how successful you became.

    Well, 1986 was an inflection point. We raised the fund in 1984. 1985 we made a few modest investments, but were really still sort of trying to figure it out. 1986 we did our first series of acquisitions, and we also financed a number of startups that became very successful. Staples, Sports Authority, Bright Horizons all sort of got financed in that period of time.

    And then we bought a company. In July our first real buyout was a company called Calumet Coach Company. We bought a company in the photo album business, the Holson Company, in October. And then we bought two businesses in December of 1986, a company called Accuride, which was a division of Firestone that made truck wheels and rims, and a company called Genstar Roofing that made asphalt roofing shingles.

    So by the end of 1986 we had sort of broken into the business and continued to do transactions through 1987, and then in 1988 sold a couple of those businesses. We sold Calumet Coach, made a terrific profit. We made 35 times our money on a $1 million investment. We sold Accuride. We made 24 times our money on a $2.5 million investment. So those two investments alone returned three times the entire fund that our investors had given us. So we were off to a good start.

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    Bain's record on jobs

    There has been a big debate about Bain Capital and the idea of creating jobs versus taking jobs away. Talk to me about that as you hear that conversation about Bain as a job creator, and how you reconcile that.

    So while I was at Bain Capital -- I was there for 15 years, and Mitt was there for almost the entire time, virtually the entire time. He left in January of 1999; I left in July of 1999. While I was there, Bain Capital made a total of 150 investments. Fifty of those are venture capital investments, helping to finance the start-up of new businesses. Every single one of those businesses created jobs. Those are new companies that didn't exist before, by definition create jobs. Three of them alone created over 100,000 jobs: Staples, Bright Horizons, Sports Authority, just take those three companies right there. So there were a lot of jobs that were created through the venture capital investing.

    Then if you look at the private equity investing, private equity, buying companies and making them more profitable, there are several strategies to do that, one of which is to buy a company and to grow it. That was most of what Bain Capital did, and those companies all were net job creators. The companies that were true growth plays -- and there are a long list of them -- Calumet Coach Company would be a good example of one where we bought a company, it had about 90 employees. When we sold it two and a half years later, it had 250 employees.

    So that was characteristic of most of the buyouts. Now, there were also some buyouts which are turnarounds, and those are companies that would in all likelihood have gone out of business, in some cases were on the brink of going out of business, and Bain Capital bought them with the intent of trying to fix them up and save them and make them more profitable.

    Most of those deals also worked. You looked at deals like Physio-Controls, Wesley Jessen, VetcoGray, a deal that Mitt did in 1987. It was losing $60 million a year at the time we bought it, had plants, inefficiencies all around the world. Cleaned that business up, made it profitable, grew up, saved it, sold it, wound up saving I don't know how many jobs, and actually at the end of the day wound up creating jobs. ...

    ... Let me just get the timeline straight. At what point was Mitt called back to Bain & Company?

    So that was in October 1990.

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    BainRomney as a Leader

    So that was in 1990. So tell me about that story and what was asked of him.

    So in late October 1990 Bill Bain came over one day and looked pretty ashen and asked Mitt if he could come spend some time with him. And Mitt came back a couple hours later and said, "Bain & Company is in real trouble."

    Bain & Company, the consulting firm that we had all left to go start Bain Capital, had itself done a leveraged buyout, and so there was bank debt, and they had had a series of layoffs.

    If you think about the fall of 1990, it was kind of like the fall of 2008. There was the S&L crisis; Drexel Burnham had filed for bankruptcy earlier that year; the first war in Iraq was pending. So there was a lot of nervousness in the economy as a whole.

    So Bain & Company's business was falling off at the same time they were having internal issues. And there was real concern that Bain & Company itself might have to file for bankruptcy.

    So Bill Bain asked Mitt if he would step in and see if he could figure out how to resolve this. And on a dime, Mitt spent the next six months basically working seven days a week, 24/7, around the clock. And a number of us helped him out to get an understanding of what the facts were, to use the experience and knowledge we had of financing and negotiation and turning businesses around that we had at that point developed at Bain Capital to see if we could save Bain & Company.

    Bill Bain had hired Goldman Sachs to advise him on whether or not Bain & Company was salvageable, and they had said no, it was unsalvageable. It was inevitable it was going to file for bankruptcy.

    Mitt took issue with that and actually turned out to be able to get everyone to restructure their debt, get the employees to agree to stay in and stay in place, get Bill Bain and the other founders to transfer their ownership to the group of employees that stayed in place. And within about a year Mitt was able to start to withdraw and come back to Bain Capital on a full-time basis, and Bain & Company got back on its feet and has prospered ever since.

    How difficult were those decisions that he needed to make at that time to his former associates, the man who had hired him?

    I think there was a lot of emotion at the time. You have to remember Bain & Company had an enormous number of very, very intelligent, very motivated people who were very puzzled how they had wound up in this dire set of circumstances. And it took a lot of skill to defuse the emotion, to get people to sort of put aside their egos and do what was in everyone's collective best interest.

    Everyone was better off that was around the table by having Bain & Company survive. If Bain & Company had filed for bankruptcy, everyone was a loser. If Bain & Company survived, everyone would be better off than they would be without it going out of business.

    So there were a lot of people, any one of whom of a large number of people who could have single-handedly forced Bain to go into bankruptcy, and Mitt was able to get them to stand still, to work through it, to come up with a workable compromise. And it required an enormous amount of skill, diplomacy, energy and tenacity on his part. ...

    What were the tension points? How close was it? Was it really dicey and scary?

    Oh absolutely, yeah. I mean, emotions were at a fever pitch. There were a group of founders who had taken a dividend who were asked to put money back into the business. There were a group of vice presidents who felt that they had been misled, who were very, very angry about the financial circumstances of the business. There were bankers who were upset the business hadn’t met the projections that had been put out in front of it. And it was a very complicated set of circumstances.

    And the sharks from Goldman Sachs swimming in the water around.

    Well they got dismissed pretty quickly on. The partner from Goldman Sachs who was in charge of the assignment got into a bit of a debate with Mitt one Saturday afternoon, and he was, they were dismissed from the case after that.

    What happened?

    He -- we’re on TV. He told Mitt to go do something to himself, and I thought Mitt was going to slug him, and he, at the end of the day he didn't slug him. The guy was inappropriate, and it turned out he was wrong. He was making some assertions, and Mitt was trying to make the counterpoint, and he was talking over Mitt. And anyway, it wound up Goldman Sachs got fired, Mitt and a couple of us helped Mitt in the first couple of weeks, but then as it went on Mitt was able to get everybody stabilized. And Bob White actually worked very closely with Mitt throughout that process as sort of his chief of staff and did a terrific job supporting him through that turnaround.

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    The Loss to Kennedy
    Surprise at Mitt's turn towards politics

    In 1993, 1994, tell me how you learned he was considering a run for the Senate and what your reaction was.

    Mitt, in late 1993 -- we were still a relatively small firm -- he mentioned to me that he was considering running against Ted Kennedy for Senate.

    I was surprised, because up to that point Mitt had shown little or no interest in politics, despite the fact that his father had run for president in 1968 and had been governor of Michigan. And I'm an avid history buff, so I was always interested to sort of get Mitt's perspective on his father. And Mitt was very focused on building Bain Capital, focused on his family; he was not expressing any political interest. And I was surprised.

    He said that it was a combination of his father and also Ann that prompted that. And he said his father was 86 years old. His father was still in very good health in 1993, but he realized that he didn't have a lot longer, and if his father was going to ever see Mitt take his first step into the world of public service, this was probably a good opportunity to do it.

    Mitt, I think, at that point felt that Bain Capital was on pretty solid footing, that if he were to win, which was obviously a long shot -- it was a long shot for anybody to beat Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, and Mitt was always very realistic about that -- but if for some fluke he wound up winning, that Bain Capital had sort of established itself as a leader in its industry, and Bain & Company at that point was flourishing. It had gone through the turnaround, was doing very well. And I think he felt that it would be a good thing for him to do while his father was still alive to be able to see him and to participate. ...

    After Mitt lost, he was in -- Mitt doesn't like to lose, so it was very painful for him to be out there to ask people to give him money and then to wind up not winning, because there was a period where Mitt polled pretty close to Ted Kennedy in the polls. And after the primary in September, the polling numbers were pretty close, and there was a period where I think people thought he might have a shot at doing what at the time seemed to be unthinkable.

    And so tell me a little bit more about that, about how he took that loss.

    Well, it was visibly painful for him. It was, I believe, probably the first public failure he had ever experienced, and I think at a deep level that was painful for him. It was painful for Ann. I think he felt like he let people down who had believed in him. And I think he was back in the office the next day and happy to get back to work.

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    The Loss to Kennedy

    They came down pretty hard on him during -- the Kennedy campaign really went after him, and one of the things they went after was his Bain career. How did that hit home and him and you all?

    Well, it came sort of coming down the homestretch, and it was something I don't think anybody saw coming.

    There was a plant of a company that had just been acquired -- it actually was acquired after Mitt had already left and was running for office -- where the workers went on strike, and the Kennedy campaign quickly figured out if they could get the striking workers to come back -- and Massachusetts is a very Democratic, pro-union state -- that that would probably help his cause. So it was one of those things that Mitt really wasn't prepared for.

    Mitt wasn't part of Bain Capital; he had taken a leave of absence, so Bain Capital really didn't want to get into the fray itself. And Mitt was in the position of having to try to explain something he really didn't know much about, because he was off campaigning and didn't have the details of why these guys were on strike and what was going on. ...

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    Romney's Core Nature

    You talk about a person who you got to know very well, and I think one of the things that has stayed with him throughout a number of the campaigns that he's run is that people sort of question who is Mitt Romney. Why do you think people have such a hard time connecting to him or he has such a hard time connecting to other people?

    That's a good question. I guess Mitt is different than most people. He lives by a set of values that a lot of people espouse but very few actually live by. Mitt is also incredibly gifted, and that's a hard thing for people to relate to. He is one of the most intelligent people I've ever met. He's one of the most energetic people I've ever met. He is one of the most charismatic people I've met.

    He's also had some good fortune. He had a terrific mother and father, family upbringing. He's had a terrific marriage, has terrific kids, successful career. It's hard for people to relate to someone who sort of seems to meet success at every turn.

    I think what people probably also have a hard time relating to is he really worked for it. I mean, the guy has earned this. This has not just been handed to him. This is a guy who works harder than anyone I know. This is not a guy who sort of kicks into cruise control, puts his feet up on the desk, sort of leans back in his chair and lets everybody do the work. This is a guy who is just going, going, going all the time, and I just don't think people are familiar with people like him.

    I had not ever met anyone like Mitt. I still haven't met anyone like Mitt. He really is an exceptional person, in my experience.

    So I think it's probably hard for people to relate to that, because unless you have met and you've gotten to know him, it's hard to know that this really is the authentic guy. And people say, "Well, jeez, that's too good to be true." Well, it's like, it's really not. It really is true. But if you don't know anybody else like that, it's hard to relate to it. ...

    Is there a core set of beliefs or values that is driving him? Is there sort of one idea, or is it more the pragmatist that believes he can make a change?

    That's a great question. I think Mitt is very pragmatic, and he's very capable at fixing things and getting things right.

    I don't believe Mitt would be running for president if he felt things were going in a great direction and there was another candidate who could do what's necessary to get the country back on track. I believe the reason he's running is he really feels like he is the right guy to get this country going in the right direction. ...

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