An account of events or a story, whether true or fictitious, is a narrative, and in business and politics maintaining a narrative’s consistency is as important as the story itself. In politics, any variation of a candidate’s narrative gives their opponent the opportunity to suggest transience on issues that has deleterious effects on a candidate’s argument of why they are the best choice to serve. In the recent election, Willard Romney portrayed himself as an experienced businessman with a record of creating jobs, and conversely, President Obama created a narrative portraying Willard as having a record of eliminating jobs or outsourcing them to China. Romney’s company, Bain Capital, became an albatross to his candidacy because the more the public learned of Bain’s business model of leveraging companies with debt, raiding its assets, and eliminating jobs, the more voters saw Willard as a job-killer who earned enormous wealth at the expense of Americans’ jobs. To some extent, Romney was able to assuage the damage from his company’s tactics because, as luck would have it, he had a Bain entity, Clear Channel communications, assist his propaganda campaign that his business acumen made him the best choice to help the economy and create jobs.
Clear Channel helped Romney’s campaign in more ways than just having conservative talking heads like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity touting his qualifications, because as the company struggled to repay $16.4 billion in debt, they did not announce widespread layoffs, and instead, eliminated jobs in small increments over the course of the past year. An industry observer writing about radio companies, Jerry Del Colliano, said Clear Channel has “strategically fired employees in small numbers so it doesn’t appear that the company is undergoing large-scale layoffs that would have looked bad for Romney if his former company fired Clear Channel’s workers en masse.” Del Colliano continued that “They’ve been nipping and tucking a lot since last November. There has been a substantial number of people let go every week for 52 weeks, and it’s my belief that what they wanted to do was keep attention off of their Bain founder, Mitt Romney.”
Obviously, news of a mass layoff by Clear Channel to “pay down their monster debt with Bain Capital,” would have reflected negatively on Romney’s contention that Bain created jobs and helped build up struggling companies, and a long time employee opined that “obviously, they are trying to fire their way to pay that debt down.” Two private equity firms, Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners purchased Clear Channel in 2008 and loaded the company with debt to the tune of $16.4 billion that comes due as soon as 2014. When Clear Channel was restructured in 2008, they laid off thousands of employees, and they were anxious to avoid another mass firing while Bain’s former owner was running for the presidency on his record as a job creator. Former employees recounted similar stories of being fired in brief meetings with little or no explanation.
One former on-air talent in Oklahoma City with 31 years at the same radio station said his firing “was the briefest, most concise meeting I’ve ever been to in my life. They never mentioned why it was happening and if I’d done anything wrong; they just said my job was being eliminated — no ‘thank you’ for 31-plus years at the same station doing a great job. No handshake, no good-bye. I got off the air, went to a meeting, was escorted out, and that was the last day I worked.” Another employee complained that as a means of cutting expenses, Clear Channel is “cutting fat” and requiring “most people at Clear Channel to do at least four or five different jobs” as an expense cutting measure.
According to Del Colliano, as Bain Capital attempts to turn the “once-profitable” Clear Channel around, there will be more cuts and that the company “most likely will be sold to another media company” and only time will tell how many employees will have jobs as expenses are slashed because of Clear Channel’s debt to Bain Capital. Now that Romney is no longer running for office, it is likely that Clear Channel will not take an incremental approach to firing workers any longer because as Del Colliano said “There’s no doubt in my mind if they had fired several hundred people, they would have had headlines generated,” that would have shed more light on Romney’s business model of leveraging a company with debt and eliminating jobs prior to dumping them for a healthy profit.
It is ironic that the company that used its substantial influence as a media giant to promote Romney’s candidacy through their conservative radio hosts and concealing the job losses is struggling to repay its debt to Romney’s company Bain Capital. The Bain business model that Romney developed has not helped turn the company around, or they would not be going through another round of job cuts within four years of being purchased by Bain, and one can rest assured that Romney profited during the campaign as the job losses were spread out over a year, and now as Clear Channel fires employees to repay the debt to Bain Capital Romney still profits from as part of his “retirement package.”
There is no end to the damage Bain Capital’s tactics are wreaking on America and its workforce, and there is an opportunity for Clear Channel to exact some revenge for being burdened with debt by changing the narrative that they are a conservative clearinghouse of hate and vitriol. If Clear Channel is concerned with cutting expenses to repay $16.4 billion to Bain Capital, they can start by firing their high-profile and high-priced radio personalities Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage for supporting Willard Romney and being purveyors of mean-spirited racism, misogyny, and homophobia before they are sold, bankrupted, and shuttered; a fate they must have known was coming the minute Bain Capital finalized the purchase agreement.