Solamere Exec Helps Romney On Fundraising

An executive at Solamere Capital LLC, the fund-of-funds manager and co-investment firm founded by Mitt Romney’s son Tagg Romney, is once again taking a leading role in the presidential candidate’s fundraising effort, Tagg Romney told Buyouts.

Managing Partner Spencer Zwick, who helped Tagg Romney establish Solamere Capital, is finance chairman for the Romney campaign, working in concert with finance director Mason Fink, who handles the campaign’s day-to-day fundraising duties.

A Romney Republican nomination conceivably could present the private equity industry to the general public more than at any time since the late 1980s, when its practitioners, then known as leveraged buyout firms, were memorialized in the popular 1990 book “Barbarians at the Gate,” about the Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. takeover of RJR Nabisco.

A Romney campaign insider familiar with private equity said that if critics argue Romney’s firm, Bain Capital, slashed jobs, the campaign will counter that while initial job cuts might be necessary, its companies generally added more jobs over the life of its investment, an argument that is common from the industry. “Sometimes you have to cut jobs to save other jobs,” the source said. “That’s the hard job about being an entrepreneur and a business person, and that’s a message that people get.”

But the campaign insider doesn’t expect widespread public scrutiny of private equity as a result of a Romney candidacy. In fact, he said he doubts either the Romney or Obama campaign would even utter the term “private equity.” Instead, he said, the Obama campaign would likely deem Romney a “Wall Street financier who destroyed jobs and shipped jobs overseas,” while the Romney campaign would focus on the candidate’s experience turning around struggling companies.

“Otherwise you’ll have to teach people about private equity and it’s too difficult,” he said.

At Solamere, Zwick remains a full-time managing partner, Tagg Romney said in an e-mail. Though he chairs the Romney campaign’s fundraising effort, he is more of a senior adviser helping to put Fink—who served as Zwick’s deputy in the 2008 campaign—in touch with influential donors, Romney said.

Romney added that he would “help my dad on a volunteer basis in my free time, but my primarily responsibility remains with Solamere.”

Zwick, 31, also helped lead fundraising for Romney’s 2008 presidential bid, when, according to Solamere Capital’s Web site, he was “the youngest person in history to hold the position of National Finance Director for a presidential campaign.” Prior to that, Zwick had also served as deputy chief of staff and COO for Mitt Romney when the latter was governor of Massachusetts.

Solamere Capital closed its debut fund in March of last year with $255 million in commitments. Notable investors included Mitt Romney, Lee Scott, the former CEO of Wal-Mart, and Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO and California gubernatorial candidate.

The firm earmarked about two-thirds of the fund, or around $170 million, to fund investments, all of which is fully committed, Romney said. Funds the firm has backed so far, according to a May 2010 Buyouts profile of the firm, include SCF Partners VII, a $525 million energy-focused fund managed by Houston-based buyout shop SCF Partners. Zwick had known L.E. Simmons, the president of the firm who had been a member of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s fundraising team, through his political work. The firm has also invested in Bain Capital X LP, the $11.5 billion buyout fund from Bain Capital, which Mitt Romney helped found and where Tagg Romney worked during a few summers; Battery Ventures X, a $750 million venture capital fund, and Charlesbank Equity Partners VII, a $1.5 billion mid-market buyout fund raised by Charlesbank Capital Partners.

The remainder of the fund, about $85 million, was slated for co-investments. Tagg Romney said the firm has made six co-investments, of $3 million to $10 million each, as of July 1, though he declined to discuss the deals in detail.