Bain Capital's Most Notable Foreign Founding Investors

The worlds of major finance and capital are as weird and skeezy as politics, but they're just so much less transparent that people rarely see what goes on.

From Sheldon Adelson to Norman Hsu, there's always been a lot of gross-looking money in politics, and available to support the ventures of former politicians once they leave office. But apparently there's even more gross-looking money in the money business.

Joseph Tanfani, Melanie Mason and Matea Gold have a revealing story in the Los Angeles Times this morning peeling back the curtain on how Bain Capital got started.

"Previously unreported details, documented in Massachusetts corporate filings and other public records, show that Bain Capital was enmeshed in the largely opaque world of international high finance from its very inception," they write.

When Bain Capital launched in 1984, Romney "struggled at first to raise enough money for the untested venture. Old-money families like the Rothschilds turned down the young Boston consultant. So he and his partners tapped an eclectic roster of investors, raising more than a third of their first $37-million investment fund from wealthy foreigners."

Here are the three most notable foreign investors the reporters name:

JACK LYONS, a financier later convicted of "theft, conspiracy, and false accounting" for dealings in the mid-'80s.

The first outside investor in Bain was a leading London financier, Sir Jack Lyons, who made a $2.5-million investment through a Panama shell company set up by a Swiss money manager, further shielding his identity. Years later, Lyons was convicted in an unrelated stock fraud scandal ....

Records show the first investment in Bain Capital -- $1.25 million in June 1984 -- was in the name of Jean Overseas Ltd., registered in Panama by Marcel Elfen, a Swiss money manager. Later, the investment was doubled.

The Panamanian shell company apparently was a vehicle for Lyons, the British businessman and philanthropist. Lyons died in 2008 ...

Jack Lyons worked as an outside consultant for Bain & Co., but that ended when he and three others were charged in the Guinness Affair, a stock scandal that rocked Britain. Convicted of fraud in 1990, he was spared prison time due to his failing health, but was stripped of his knighthood.

ROBERT MAXWELL, the publishing magnate, Rupert Murdoch "archrival" and "pension plunderer" who died under murky circumstances.

Other early investors included Robert Maxwell, the British publishing baron, who invested $2 million. After his drowning death in 1991, investigators discovered Maxwell had stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from his company's pension funds.

THE DE SOLA FAMILY, relatives of an alleged death-squad backer now in prison for fraud.

Among the Bain investors were Francisco R.R. de Sola and his cousin Herbert Arturo de Sola, whose brother Orlando de Sola was suspected by State Department officials and the CIA of backing the right-wing death squads, according to now-declassified documents.

Orlando de Sola, who has denied supporting the death squads, is now serving a four-year prison term for unrelated fraud charges. In an interview at the prison in Metapan, El Salvador, he said he did not benefit from the family investment in Bain Capital.

For more on this particular connection, see also ProPublica reporter Justin Elliott's January piece, "The Roots of Bain Capital in El Salvador's Civil War."

Presented by

Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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