Private Equity Investor David Parker Analyzes The Romney Campaign
HH: I linked a piece on Saturday over at Hughhewitt.com, and I relinked it at the post at the top of Hughhewitt.com right now, by David Parker about Mitt Romney, because I think it’s one of the most comprehensive statements by a Romney partisan of Romney’s credentials. Pleased to welcome now David Parker. Hello, David, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
DP: Hello, Hugh. Thanks for the call.
HH: David, would you tell people how long you’ve known Governor Romney
DP: I’ve known Governor Romney for about seven years now.
HH: And when did you first get to know him, and under what circumstances?
DP: I first got to know both Mitt and Ann early on in the presidential campaign, or prior to the presidential campaign in 2008. I had some very interesting dialogues, introductions, spent some personal time with each other, getting to know the Romneys a little bit better, their principles, what drives them, what’s made them who they are, their philosophies, their sense of obligation and duty to our country, to their family, to principles that have shaped them over their lives, as such. And as a consequence of that, became a very strong advocate for the Romneys not only as friends, but in their pursuit of the presidential aspirations in the last campaign. And that’s followed on into this one as well.
HH: Now the reason I bring it up is because you did not know him at Bain Capital or at the Olympics. And that’s…you came to the campaign. You were a free agent, you can pick anybody you want, and you’re a businessman. Would you tell people what your business background is?
DP: My background is investment banking, private equity. I’ve done it for thirty, a little over thirty years globally, internationally as well as domestically.
HH: But not with Bain. You weren’t a Bain guy.
DP: No, not with Bain at all. Not in any way.
HH: That’s one of the reasons…I knew that, and I was attracted to having you on today so you could explain A) what private equity does, and B) what that tells you about the capabilities of Romney. And then let’s go to the piece that you wrote and I’ve linked over at Hughhewitt.com. So first, what does private equity do?
DP: Well, private equity provides a critical role, even more so in this current economic environment than in any other time. Private equity is a capital strategy that invests in businesses to make them better, to create larger, better, more profitable enterprises, to turn them around, to tweak them, to expand the economic base. Private equity is driven specifically to take something today, make it worth something more tomorrow, and that’s usually a three to seven year strategy, build it up, trade it back into the marketplace to get a return on investment. And that’s what we do. We go and we invest in companies, we build companies, we drive companies to make them bigger, make them better, to make them more efficient. And we get our return when we are successful in that.
HH: Now I’m guaranteeing you most of the people listening to the Hugh Hewitt Show this afternoon have never met a private equity investor. They don’t know them. There aren’t that many of you guys running around. But what do you make of the rather sinister portrayal that is attached to private equity investors in the course of this campaign?
DP: Well, it’s either, there’s a duplicitous strategy there to try and undermine something that people are afraid of, or it’s really born of ignorance. Our society is a free market society. We invest capital. We start businesses to create opportunity. It creates economic opportunity, it creates jobs, it does all things that fulfill the engine of a free market society. That’s what private equity does. I think politically, it’s anathema to some born out of fear. They perceive it to be an elite class. It’s not an elite class. It’s nothing more than having a small businessman who decides I’m going to take my money, and I’m going to go out and start a small personal business or franchise business, and I’m going to take that dollar, and I’m going to turn it into ten. It’s going to provide an income for me. They’re doing private equity as well. They’re just doing it on a smaller basis.
HH: That’s what I wanted to emphasize. If you’ve ever lent your buddy money to start a business, and hoped to get it back and take some participation in the business as a result of it, aren’t you a private equity guy, David Parker?
DP: In absolutes. In absolutes.
HH: All right.
DP: Private equity is investing in people, in concepts, in products to create wealth.
HH: We’ve got a minute to our break. What’s the best thing you learn as a private equity investor that would help you in government? And we’ll come back after the break and talk about Romney specifically.
DP: What you learn more than anything is the nature of people, the nature of creativity, the nature of work, the nature of innovation. That’s what you’re investing in, and that’s what you glean from this experience.
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HH: If you’re intrigued by this conversation with David Parker, a very successful private investor, private equity investor, you’ll really be intrigued by the piece he wrote on Mitt Romney. Now I know a lot about Romney, because I wrote a book about him. But as I went down the Parker piece, No Apology: The Case For Mitt Romney, you put a lot of time into this, David. In fact, you’ve got, I think, close to 50 variables ranging from served as CEO or managing principal, served as CEO of a philanthropic enterprise, employee base greater than 100,000, communication skills, analytical skills, et cetera. How long did it take you to put this matrix together?
DP: It’s been a process over time. I began to look at it back in 2008 when I was making a comparative of the various candidates that were in the race, both Republican and Democrat. And I basically took it to the next level in this particular election cycle to give me a better view just within the Republican candidates. You could take Obama and put him in here as well and come up with a similar contrast, and it would not look any different in the favorability of Mitt.
HH: Well, what I want people to understand, it’s so far, David. For example, on the social issues, you say pro-life, and you go across the four remaining Republicans, yes, yes, yes, yes. For traditional marriage advocate, yes, yes, yes, yes. Marriage amendment, yes, yes, yes, yes. 2nd Amendment rights, yes, yes, yes, yes. Tax reduction, yes, yes, yes, yes. And you actually give the other guys their due. Now where there are differences, you will illustrate those differences. But that’s what I think is valuable about this. And I wonder if it, and I was asking myself, I wonder if Parker does this when he’s considering investing between two companies, and you have to make a choice between the two companies.
DP: Well, I think you have to do it dispassionately. You have to look at things with a degree of objectivity and fairness. And the best way I can liken this, I was having a discussion with Governor Romney some time ago, and we were talking about a decision he was facing in a particular issue relating to the Commonwealth. He had members of his cabinet come and basically say we’re all agreed, this is something we need to do, we need to go forward with it. And he turned to them and he says, you’re all agreed, unanimity, no dispute between you on it, you think we ought to do it. And they said yes. He said great, I want to bring your strongest advocate against your position into the room. Let’s talk about it dispassionately. Then we’ll make our decision. The process, whether it’s business, whether it’s politics, whatever it might be, is you have to look to a degree of dispassion. You have to take it and look at it as objectively as you can. I’ve tried to do that here. And I wish those in the Republican Party would take a similar view. They tend to take such a biased and myopic view that’s so driven by ideology, they fail to look at the pragmatism of the process of what we’re trying to achieve. We have one objective here. That objective is to displace Barack Obama as president of the United States. I just spent lunch with a senior executive of a $50 billion dollar bank that I advise. And we talked about what the future was. He, for all practical purposes, is in a holding pattern because of the current practices, policies and attitudes of this administration. And if it doesn’t change, his business will not grow.
DP: And you cannot have an economic recovery without banks. And so we look at this in a way, you have to step back, take a dispassionate view, and say what is our objective? Our objective is to change what is in the White House, to put back principles that this nation was founded on, that drive success, that drive the hope of what this nation creates, and get, and cut out this myopia of saying my ideology is absolutely right. I think about it with Rick Santorum. You know, I’m a social conservative. Great. I’m glad you’re a social conservative. That’s a wonderful thing. Have you ever led anything? No. Then what makes you think you can lead our nation? You haven’t even had…we had that problem with Obama.
HH: Let me ask, David Parker, last night I had dinner with a senior exec from a different kind of organization entirely, and his question was, we were talking Santorum and Romney, because I like both of these men, and they’re probably the two elected people that I know best in the country. I’ve spent more time with Romney and Santorum than any other two people. They’d both make excellent presidents. They have different skill sets, slightly different views, though they’re almost, I mean, like as you can see from your matrix, they pretty much agree on everything. It really comes down to experience.
HH: And so we were talking about this very dispassionately. But he said you know, my big drawback is I’m sure Santorum would bring conservatives into the cabinet, and I’m not sure Romney would. What do you say to that?
DP: Well, what I know about Governor Romney, what I know of him personally, what he will bring into the cabinet is competency. He will bring people that are capable. Let me use an illustration. I don’t mean to be disparaging of anybody else. But you look at it with Barack Obama. He’s the brightest bulb in the room. Does he bring anything in who is greater or better than him at what he does? He selected Joe Biden as his vice president. That should say it all. Mitt Romney is the type of guy that will bring somebody in who is brighter, better and more capable, because he has confidence in driving a core principle and knowing that they’ll execute to that principle, but they’ll do it with competence. That’s the difference in leadership. Leadership is not standing up and waving the flag and saying I know what’s right, I’m great, here’s the flag, follow me. Leadership is identifying key resources, key talents, that will stand with principle on what you stand for, and execute accordingly. Give a listen to Governor Romney at any time in the past. He says yes, we turned the Olympics around. We had a great team that turned the Olympics around. You look at what he did in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We had a great team that turned it around. At Bain, same thing. He brings people together who are competent and capable, and who are not, he’s not concerned that they may be smarter. In fact, he would encourage them to be brighter, more capable in that regard, as long as they will be adherent to the principles that he knows to be true. And this is a man I know his principles. And I appreciate Rick Santorum for who he is. His principles are right and good, and I agree with you completely in that regard. But can he translate that?
HH: David, in terms of, I’m talking with David Parker, investment capitalist who is a friend of Romney and wrote his piece which is linked at Hughhewitt.com, do you think his campaign is in good shape, because I think that it’s actually fairly inevitable he’s going to be the nominee, and I say that. But what do you think as someone who is close to the campaign?
DP: Well, if I look at a comparative analysis between his campaign organization and anybody else in the Republican Party, it is by every measure a multiple in its capacity and its capability and its depth and its resource. I believe the campaign has great talent involved in it, and is well-positioned across the breadth of the country. Nobody else can match that, which is again a reflection of the man and his ability to bring an organization together.
HH: That’s my thinking as well, but I very much appreciate the matrix, David Parker, and the piece that accompanies it. It’s linked at Hughhewitt.com. Thanks for your time this afternoon.
End of interview.