As we saw in his speech accepting the GOP presidential nomination last night, upstaged by Clint Eastwood’s instantly meme-ified meltdown, Pixar-animated villain Mitt Romney is having trouble deciding whether to run on his private equity experience or far, far away from it. That could be because for every vague recollection of corporate success, there is a heartbreaking account of an honest business that Bain Capital gutted for a quick buck. KB Toys, for example.
It’d look bad enough to kill a healthy auto plant or whatever (hi, Janesville!), but to destroy a beloved toy store principally aimed at price-conscious middle class families elevates Romney to Scrooge-level emotional bankruptcy. As Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:
KB’s president in the Eighties, the late Saul Rubenstein, used to carry around a giant computer printout of the company’s inventory, and would fall asleep reading it on the weekends, the pages clasped to his chest. "He knew the name and number of all those toys," his widow, Shirley, says proudly. "He loved toys."
Bain’s experience in the toy industry, by contrast, was precisely bupkus. They didn’t know a damn thing about the business they had taken over – and they never cared to learn.
Which is why they never bothered with a plan for KB’s future operations—why would they? PE firms have never been about “helping” the businesses they wrap their greasy tentacles around, only their return on investment. If profitability means unraveling a sweet dead man’s 100% American dream of bringing joy to millions of children across the nation, then go for it. Unless you hate success.