Amid anecdotal evidence on both sides,moncler jackets the full record has largely escaped a close look, because so many transactions are involved. The Wall Street Journal, aiming for a comprehensive assessment, examined 77 businesses Bain invested in while Mr. Romney led the firm from its 1984 start until early 1999, to see how they fared during Bain's involvement and shortly afterward.
Among the findings: 22% either filed for bankruptcy reorganization or closed their doors by the end of the eighth year after Bain first invested, sometimes with substantial job losses. An additional 8% ran into so much trouble that all of the money Bain invested was lost.
Another finding was that Bain produced stellar returns for its investors—yet the bulk of these came from just a small number of its investments. Ten deals produced more than 70% of the dollar gains.
Some of those companies, too, later ran into trouble. Of the 10 businesses on which Bain investors scored their biggest gains, four later landed in bankruptcy court.
A spokesman for Bain Capital said its "success rate in growing and turning around businesses in both strong and weak economic periods is very high…" The company called the Journal's analysis "inaccurate and misleading" and said it unfairly put the onus on Bain for events at companies after it no longer owned them.
Seeking the protection of a bankruptcy court isn't necessarily a sign of long-term business failure. Many of the Bain companies emerged from reorganization healthier, just as, for instance, General Motors did a few years ago. But while bankruptcy filings aren't a perfect measure of performance, they provide a way to assess a disparate array of target businesses that in many cases weren't required to make public financial filings.
The Journal's findings could provide fodder for both critics and supporters of Mr. Romney's presidential ambitions and of his role at Bain. Some experts, while conceding that available studies don't provide a direct comparison, said the rate at which the firms Bain invested in ran into trouble appears to be higher than experienced by some rival buyout firms during the era.
That notion could undermine a central 60% off moncler jackets thrust of Mr. Romney's campaign message: that his private-sector experience building companies makes him the best candidate to turn around the ailing U.S. economy.
The numbers, however, also reflect Bain's investing style, which, particularly during the firm's early years, was focused on smaller and sometimes troubled companies that Bain hoped to fix or build.
Bain was investing in "riskier deals," said Steven N. Kaplan, a finance professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. "For every one that went bankrupt, they had one that was a screaming success. The overall effect was terrific performance" for the firm's investors.
The Journal analysis shows that in total, Bain produced about $2.5 billion in gains for its investors in the 77 deals, on about $1.1 billion invested. Overall, Bain recorded roughly 50% to 80% annual gains in this period, which experts said was among the best track records for buyout firms in that era.
Some of the companies that ran into trouble did so after Bain was no longer involved and new owners had taken charge. Bain declined to provide information on when its involvement in its investments ended.
The Journal chose to look at target companies' fates by the end of the eighth year after Bain's initial investment, which appears close to the maximum time that Bain remained in control of any of its targets. Academic research has shown that buyout firms during this era exited their deals on average after 5? years, but in a large percentage of cases were still involved beyond seven years.
Bain backers argue that it is unfair to tag the firm with any bankruptcy that occurred several years after it took a company public or sold it. Others have said the firm and its former leader could still bear some responsibility for failing to leave a company in strong shape.
Bain said the evaluation "uses a fundamentally flawed methodology that unfairly assigns responsibility to us for many events that occurred in companies when we did not own or control them, and disregards dozens of successful venture capital investments."
Bain added: "We understand that our record will be scrutinized and distorted during the political campaign involving our partner who retired 12 years ago, but our focus remains on working with management teams to build great companies and improve their operations."
If the Journal analysis were limited to bankruptcies and closures occurring by the end of the fifth year after Bain first invested, the rate would move down to 12%. That measure would exclude several cases that have brought Mr. Romney political criticism, where businesses filed for bankruptcy seven or eight years after Bain's investment.
Mr. Romney has told potential voters how cheap moncler vest at Bain he helped launch or rebuild companies such as Staples Inc., Domino's Pizza Inc. and Sports Authority Inc., creating more than 100,000 jobs.
His rivals have sought to turn his Bain tenure against him. Rick Perry has run an ad saying Mr. Romney "made millions buying companies and laying off workers." Newt Gingrich has said Mr. Romney should "give back all the money he's earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain."
Mr. Gingrich laced into Mr. Romney at this weekend's debates, and a group associated with the former House Speaker plans to release a 28-minute documentary blistering Mr. Romney's Bain tenure. Meanwhile, on ABC on Sunday, Obama strategist David Axelrod criticized Mr. Romney as "a corporate raider."
Mr. Romney describes job losses and bankruptcies as an inevitable byproduct of the capitalist system, and has said that in some cases, eliminating some jobs may save the rest of the company. In response to Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Romney said: "Doesn't he understand how the economy works? In the real economy, some businesses succeed and some fail."
Asked in an interview about Bain's bankruptcy and failure rate, Mr. Romney said that in buyout deals, "our orientation was by and large to acquire businesses that were out of favor and in some cases in trouble." He added that Bain wasn't the type of firm that stripped companies cheap moncler and fired workers, but instead, "our approach was to try to build a business. We were not always successful."