Not My Job, Man: Readers Weigh In On “Job Creators”

President Obama had his say last week on the jobs issue, urging Congress to “pass this jobs plan right away.”

Mitt Romney, the Republican contender for Obama’s job, weighed in earlier in the week, touting his role at Bain Capital as a job creator.

But what about you, dear readers? Do you think it is private equity’s job to create jobs?

No.

Two thirds of you, responding to our Question of the Week, said a focus on jobs is the wrong approach for private equity; the real issue is to earn financial returns for investors.

One in four said the industry just needs to do a better job of getting its message out that it does create jobs.

Only 8 percent said that private equity firms should do more to create jobs.

Those of you who shared comments were quite emphatic about your views. Some of your comments:

The political feel good answer here makes me sick. The only Job is to provide returns to LPs.

Their primary objective should be to provide returns to their LPs. Having said that, they have probably been a net job creator over time.

If an investor wishes to create jobs and have the prospect for above average returns they should do less in standard buyout strategies and invest more in venture capital and growth equity.

Mitt made a lot of money for himself & for his LPs: congratulations are in order. But for him to spin himself as a “jobs creator” is a joke. Mitt and Bain Capital were at the front of the wave of downsizing and offshoring in the 80s/90s. Again, it made him and his LPs a ton of dough: it’s what he was supposed to do. But come on: claiming he was a “jobs creator” is as laughable as when he claimed he was a “life-long hunter.”

Is this question a JOKE? Seriously Steve, go back 25 years (to beginning of modern PE) and look at the NET new jobs created by companies after they were backed by PE firms. If it’s a positive number, you, I and all of the rest of your readers will be stunned. That’s OK, that’s not the job of PE. A better question would be to ask readers what their over/under is on the number of jobs that PE firms have “rightsized.” Again, it’s fine: PE’s are paid on returns, not on jobs creation.

PE people are generally fairly well off- even what we’d term as wealthy. In that case they have been renamed as “job creators” by many in the Republican Party. Given that title, you can either decide to be that person or just call yourself that. Otherwise you have to just admit that it’s not what you are or what you do. In that case, you just have to say the issue is totally misguided and your priority is to earn returns for LPs.

First, it’s in their own best interests for PE firm to help create more jobs, which would stabilize the U.S. economy overall. After all, people need jobs to buy whatever product or service the PE firm gets behind. Second, while of course PE firms do already often create jobs, a focus on “returns above all else” has also COST a lot of jobs in the past, especially when overly leveraged buyouts like Romney has done end up pushing a company into bankruptcy and closure. And, third, if PE firms don’t help create more jobs, I don’t ever want to hear the “cut taxes so that the wealthy will create jobs” mantra ever again. It hasn’t proven to be true yet, considering federal tax rates are the lowest they’ve been in decades.

Steve Bills is a senior editor at Buyouts Magazine. Any opinions expressed here are entirely his own. Follow him on Twitter @Steve_Bills. Follow Buyouts tweets @Buyouts. For information on how to subscribe, contact Greg Winterton at greg.winterton@thomsonreuters.com.

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