“We’re all devastated,” one worker told the Hartford Courant at the time. “This is one of the nicest, most family-oriented places that you could work . . . and I don’t know why they had to do this.”
Yet few would dispute that Staples has become a sterling American success story. From an idea hatched by entrepreneur Tom Stemberg, it has grown into a $24.5 billion company with 89,000 employees worldwide, all of whom Romney counts in his 100,000 job-creation total. Romney sat on the company’s board for more than a decade. Stemberg said in an interview that Romney was “the best single corporate director I’ve seen in action.”
Sports Authority and Domino’s have also grown tremendously since benefiting from Bain’s investments. But like Staples, they have had to lay off workers on occasion.
In March 2008, Domino’s announced that it was cutting roughly 50 employees after net quarterly earnings dropped 48 percent. It was the first time the company had done layoffs since 1999.
Sports Authority in 2003 merged with Gart Sports to become the country’s largest sporting-goods retailer. At the time, jobs were lost at Sports Authority’s headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., though some moved to the company’s new offices in Denver.
The Romney campaign says its candidate’s experiences at Staples, Sports Authority and Domino’s give him “the unique skills and capabilities to do what President Obama has failed to do: focus on job creation and turn around our nation’s faltering economy.”
But some private-equity experts think the link between Bain’s deals and jobs is more tenuous.
“I’ve got a lot of admiration for Bain Capital, but jobs were the byproduct of the mission, not the product,” said Howard Anderson, a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. “The product was to increase wealth, and in some cases it meant expanding the company. In some cases it meant contracting the company.”
A Domino’s spokesperson said that the company “can’t put a number to the amount of jobs created since 1998,” the year Bain invested in the firm and began turning it around.
Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said that despite job losses and other discomfiting changes when companies single-mindedly pursue profit, Americans are ultimately “believers in creative destruction.”
“Romney is mainstream in one sense, and that is that Americans are very committed to this process because we believe in the future and we believe in technology,” Carnevale said.