May 25, 2012
By: John Clark
The leaders behind President Obama’s re-election campaign claimed this week that Mitt Romney was once responsible for driving a chain of Ohio clothing stores into bankruptcy, according to a recent report from HispanicBusiness.com.
Sources say that Ted Strickland, the national co-chair of the president’s campaign, told reporters this week that Bain Capital, which Romney used to lead, bought up several small department stores in the 1980s that were located in 26 Ohio cities and organized them into a company called Stage Stores Inc.
According to Strickland, Bain Capital expanded the company, borrowed heavily against its assets with low-value junk bonds, and eventually sold the company at a steep profit in 1997.
Three years later, the company filed for bankruptcy, and more than 5,000 Ohio workers lost their jobs. This, the Obama campaign claims, was bad for Ohio’s economy and bad for its workforce.
Of course, the Romney campaign sees the event differently. According to Chrisopher Maloney, an Ohio spokesman for the Romney campaign, Stage Stores Inc. had a successful run when it was under the control of Bain Capital.
And Bain Capital expanded the company, as it increased from 257 stores in 13 states to more than 600 states in 24 states by the time Bain sold its remaining shares in the company.
The Romney campaign argues that this expansion added a number of jobs to several different states and strengthened the company’s finances. They also claim that poor leadership after Bain left eventually led the company to call a bankruptcy attorney.
The battle over Stage Stores highlights what will become a very common theme over the next few months. Both campaigns understand that economic issues will be pivotal in November, and voters will likely be subject to accusations of economic malfeasance from both candidates.
Interestingly, despite the roller coaster ride suffered by Stage Stores Inc. in recent years, the company has reportedly recovered, and it now includes 800 stores in 40 states.
The stores operate under several different names, including Bealls, Goody’s, Palais Royal, Peebles, and Stage. Only five of those stores, however, are now in Ohio, which once hosted 26 different Stage Stores.
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