FORTUNE — Gabriel Gomez and Ed Markey squared off last night in the final debate before next Tuesday’s special election in Massachusetts, the winner of which will fill out the remainder of John Kerry’s term as a U.S. Senator. And, unlike in the prior two debates, there was significant discussion of Gomez’s career in private equity.
Unfortunately, none of it was terribly helpful for those in search of actual information. Gomez oscillated between evasion and spin, leaving voters either wanting more or believing in a false narrative. Markey, on the other hand, displayed the ignorance of a schoolboy who forgot to study for the big test. Hopefully he does a bit more search on issues before him in the Congress.
Anyway, here’s an analysis of what was said last night vis-a-vis Gomez and private equity. Here was the first substantive exchange:
Gomez is right that private equity firms don’t have “clients,” such as a law firm or consulting firm would have. They have investors, also known as limited partners, to whom they are ultimately responsible. But I’m pretty sure Markey was actually interested in the names of Advent International portfolio companies with which Gomez worked, and what he specifically did with them (although Markey proved utterly unable to articulate that request).
As we’re previously discussed, Gomez primarily worked in a business development role with Advent — rather than in a deal-making role — and he has provided precious few details about which of Advent’s hundreds of portfolio companies he worked with. As for Lululemon, I’m not exactly sure how he “made a Canadian company into an American company.” Pretty sure Lululemon remains headquartered in Vancouver, even if the majority of its stores and jobs are south of the border.
Markey could have learned that Gomez represented Advent on a total of five boards, had he just done a quick Google search. He also could have learned that while Synventive has indeed turned things around, the deal actually lost money for Advent and its investors (kind of notable, since it’s the only deal Gomez led while at Advent). He also might have pointed out that automotive is only one of many markets that Synventive serves.
Then there is this whole issue about President Obama investing in Advent International. I assume Gomez is referring to the fact that Obama has a public retirement pension account in Illinois from his time as a state senator. Two points about that: (1) President Obama does not have any decision-making authority over what investments the Illinois State Board of Investments does or doesn’t make. Even if President Obama despised Advent International, he’d likely still be an “investor.” (2) The Illinois State Board of Investments did not invest in the Advent International fund that sponsored Synventive.
Kirkland’s did not do “phenomenally well” during the time Gomez was on its board of directors, as we detailed yesterday. Gomez is correct, however, that Advent International has produced strong returns for public pensioners in Massachusetts. The state’s largest retirement system currently is invested in six different Advent funds, with a 22.5% average internal rate of return (IRR) through the end of 2012.
Beyond that, it probably is worth noting that Gomez said a change to the tax treatment of carried interest should be “on the table,” although he stopped short of endorsing such a switch.
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