A few people wrote to me this morning asking me about Dan Primack’s critique of my Romney piece ("Greed and Debt," August 29) on CNN.com. His article ("Greed, Debt, and Matt Taibbi") purports to provide a list of factual inaccuracies, but like a lot of these pieces that pore through long features in search of mistakes, the resultant list ends up mainly being a discussion of non-factual issues where Primack and I simply disagree.
For example, take this passage, where Primack quotes me and then critiques:
"Now your troubled firm – let's say you make tricycles in Alabama – has been taken over by a bunch of slick Wall Street dudes who kicked in as little as five percent as a down payment."
While perhaps there have been certain leveraged buyouts that involve just 5% equity, the typical contribution is significantly higher. For example, S&P Leveraged Commentary & Data reports that average LBO equity contributions since 1997 have come in between 28% and 45%. Still a debt game, but not quite so severe.
This is exactly why I used the term "as little as" five percent. I referenced two Bain deals where the company put down such obscenely small amounts of cash to take over companies: the Ampad deal where they put down $5 million to take over a company that was eventually forced to take on over $448 million in debt, and the KB deal where Bain put down $18 million and financed the remaining $302 million (meaning Bain put down more or less exactly five percent on the deal). I then noted, in the piece, that most LBO deals are 60-90% financed, which is not quite exactly but very nearly exactly what Primack says (his numbers are 65%-72% financed), except that he got his data from the S&P Leveraged Commentary & Data, while I got mine from the Journal of Economic Perspectives.
So Primack’s point, I guess, is that I misrepresented how much a PE company typically puts down in a takeover deal, except that I actually went out of my way to point out how much of these deals are typically financed, and then used two concrete examples from Mitt Romney’s own past (remember, this is an article about Mitt Romney) to point out extreme cases, which Primack admits “perhaps” do happen.
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