It will be interesting to see how the debate over private equity’s role in the U.S. economy plays out this week in Boston, where 600 middle-market dealmakers are expected to converge at the 2012 Boston Growth Conference & ACG Capital Connection, held at the Hynes Convention Center.
Boston is home to Bain Capital, the private equity firm that presidential hopeful Mitt Romney co-founded in 1984. Bain has been under attack lately in a series of television ads distributed by President Barack Obama’s campaign that depict Romney and the firm as job-cutting corporate raiders. Bain has defended itself, saying in a statement emailed to reporters: “Despite political attacks that emphasize the few companies that have struggled, the facts are that during Bain Capital’s ownership, revenues grew in 80 percent of the more than 350 companies in which we have invested.”
The controversy is likely to be among the topics covered at ACG Boston on May 30 at a lunch panel discussion, moderated by Dan Primack, Fortune magazine senior editor, and featuring Michael Ascione, Berkshire Partners managing director, and Geoffrey Rehnert, who worked with Romney at Bain back in the day and who today is co-CEO of Audax Group, a Boston PE firm that focuses on the lower middle market.
Rehnhert appears in what has now become an infamous and widely distributed photo taken nearly 30 years ago of Romney and other Bain pioneers with $20 bills hanging out of their mouths. As Rehnert tells contributing editor Danielle Fugazy in the June cover story of Mergers & Acquisitions, the picture was a bunch of young guys celebrating the American dream. They had just raised the largest first-time fund in the history of venture capital and they were goofing around in a candid shot, while posing for a more formal photo that went into Bain's first brochure.
Rehnert says he had more than $20,000 in outstanding student loans at the time.
"The playful shot was comparable to the owner of a pizza parlor framing the first dollar he got for a pizza sold," says Rehnert, now 54.
Rehnert is pulling for his former colleague and friend in the next presidential election. Additionally, he expects the world to get a better, more realistic view of private equity and its benefits, with Romney at the forefront. "The best thing for the industry is for America to get a better understanding of how the economics of the industry works and understand that it's a constructive part of the economy," Rehnert tells Fugazy.
We’re looking forward to hearing more of Rehnert’s thoughts on the topic, as well as on other trends affecting the PE industry, at ACG Boston, where senior reporter Anthony Noto and I will be reporting.
Tune in later in the week for our coverage, including video interviews with Rehnert and other leading dealmakers.
For more on the presidential debate over private equity, see “Private Equity Perspective: Bain Capital Defends Track Record Against Obama Ads.”
And for more on Geoffrey Rehnert and other investors who are reshaping PE, see “10 Private Equity Pros to Watch.”