Their leader, Mitt Romney, went on to become governor of Massachusetts and this year’s likely Republican presidential nominee.
At the 1984 photo shoot, Romney and his partners were celebrating not only their new company but also the ethos of their era. They had just given up their jobs as consultants at Bain & Co. to start Bain Capital with one overarching goal: to create wealth. They were, to use a favorite Romneyism, “dreamers.”
Nearly three decades later, the black-and-white snapshot captures a moment when Romney was about to become wildly successful in business, giving him the resources and a critical credential for entering national politics.
Yet the photo also embodies one of Romney’s challenges as a candidate: his wealth.
President Obama has seized upon his challenger’s position at the apex of American capitalism to portray him as elite and out of touch.
“We’re the poster children for class warfare now,” said Geoffrey S. Rehnert, one of the seven partners in the photograph. “That’s something I never anticipated.” Rehnert and other partners said they are unhappy about the politicization of the image. One of Romney’s mentors called the shot “tacky” and “inappropriate.”
The cocky assurance that Romney and his buddies displayed in the photo belied their youth and inexperience. Romney, then 36, was a success by any measure. He had risen through the Bain ranks quickly, and he was earning a good living and raising five sons.
Running Bain Capital was the biggest challenge yet in his career, and he approached it cautiously and gradually, with the same careful evaluation and reliance on analytics that would characterize his political campaigns and term as governor.
“We put Mitt in charge,” said Patrick Graham, a mentor of Romney’s at Bain & Co. “He’s an outstanding guy. He’s a leader. He didn’t have any financial expertise, by the way. But we just wanted to give him a bigger challenge.”
‘Driven for success’
When Bain Capital was started, the seven founding partners took pay cuts and pooled much of their savings to invest in the firm. They wouldn’t see a return for at least two years, and they say they feared failure. As one of Romney’s partners said, only half-joking, the money they were holding up in the 1984 photo was all they had.
“We were excited about the prospects, but it was scary,” said Robert F. White, one of the co-founders, who would become one of Romney’s closest friends. “We were making a big bet, we still had student loans, and we had very little money to invest.”
Scarier still, they were all rookies. They had excelled as young consultants advising companies on management decisions, but none had worked on Wall Street. “We came in cold,” Rehnert said.