A Perfect Little Detail

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

In a piece we ran this past week about a factory closing in northwestern Illinois, there was a wonderful little detail that risks getting lost in the bigger story, so I thought I’d call some attention to it in Notes: The CEO of the private-equity firm responsible for the closure hosted the fundraiser where Mitt Romney made his crass 47-percent remark in the 2012 election cycle.

As our writer Chad Broughton tells it:

The events that led to the [factory’s] shuttering began in 2014, when Schneider Electric, a French multinational, bought Invensys, the company that owned the Hanover factory.

Schneider then sold part of Invensys to Sun European Capital, a division of Sun Capital, a private-equity firm that specializes in, among other things, this kind of “corporate carve-out.” Co-CEO of Sun, Marc J. Leder, said at the time, “As the broader economic environment improves, we expect to see greater potential in the global appliance market to emerge. We are looking forward to working hand in hand with the management team in the pursuit of these prospects.”

A few months later, in October 2014, Robertshaw—the renamed Invensys unit—announced two American factory closings, one of which was Hanover’s. Rumor had finally become reality.

Some readers may recall Sun Capital from the last presidential election. Leder, Sun Capital’s co-founder, had been inspired into private equity by Mitt Romney, who was, of course, a PE superstar, having established Bain Capital in 1984. In September 2012, just weeks before the election, Leder hosted Romney for a $50,000 a plate fundraiser at his Florida home. At the fundraiser, Romney made his now-infamous remarks about the 47 percent of Americans “who will vote for the president no matter what … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

More than anything, for me this brings a story that has existed in the realm of mythology into the real—a place where politicians and private-equity “superstars” are made of the same flesh and bone as factory-workers, and ideas have consequences.