Question of the Week: Romney’s PE Ties – Updated

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Whither the direction of PE PR?

We all anticipated that the ascendance of Mitt Romney as the Republican front-runner for president would put a spotlight on private equity, and indeed, we already have begun to see the predictable critiques from the political left. (Check out this video.)

More surprising were attacks from GOP rivals, including Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman; after all, Republicans are supposed to be pro-business, and what could be more purely a business kind of business than buying and selling companies?

This was especially confounding inasmuch as Gingrich himself had done a stint as an adviser to pioneering buyout shop Forstmann Little & Co. after he left Congress, while Huntsman is a scion of a private equity billionaire.

Romney’s growing prominence as GOP frontrunner has also inspired more measured scrutiny of the buyouts business, involving both in-depth assessments and shocking exposes.

At a minimum, the American public is going to get an education about a financial industry that most don’t understand; many probably don’t even realize that it exists.

As a result, both the Association for Corporate Growth and the Private Equity Growth Capital Council are undertaking efforts to tell the industry’s side of the story. Expect to hear a lot more on this issue.

So that’s the question, dear reader. As political opponents make private equity the villain in the attempt to defeat Romney, will it work? Or can the public be educated about the virtues of the business? Does it matter? Or will we find some surprising outcome?

 Photo by Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock)

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.