Romney Backer Leder Made Sun Capital Fortune Fixing Retailers

Marc Leder, whose $3 million Florida home was the site where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said almost half of Americans feel entitled to government aid, made his fortune buying broken companies from Boston Market to Captain D’s.

Leder, co-chief executive officer of Sun Capital Partners Inc., is running a private-equity firm with about $8 billion under management. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the fourth-best undergraduate business school, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, and together with a group of private- equity executives owns the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team.

“I believe all Americans should have the opportunity to succeed, to improve their lives, and to build even better lives for their children,” Leder said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “I have supported people from both political parties who share this view and make it a priority, even though their ideas on how to achieve it may differ.”

Leder hosted a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser for the candidate in Boca Raton, Florida, in May. A video recording from the event posted this week by Mother Jones magazine showed the nominee saying 47 percent of Americans will vote for President Obama “no matter what” because they are dependent on government aid and don’t pay income tax. Leder has given at least $225,000 to Restore Our Future, a so-called super-political action committee backing Romney, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Schneiderman Subpoena

Sun Capital, which Leder co-founded in 1995, is among private-equity firms subpoenaed by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman in a probe into whether they are depriving the state of tax revenue, according to two people familiar with the matter. Alex Stanton, a spokesman for the firm, declined to comment.

Schneiderman is investigating so-called management fee waivers, which reduce tax liability of buyout firms by converting certain fees paid by their investors into fund commitments, whose profits are taxed at a lower rate. Other firms subpoenaed in the attorney general’s probe include Bain, Apollo Global Management LLC (APO), KKR & Co. and TPG Capital, the people familiar said. The fee waiver tactic hasn’t been deemed a violation of federal tax laws.

Romney, whose wealth is estimated at $250 million, paid an effective rate of 13.9 percent, according to his 2010 return, lower than many middle- and upper-middle-income households. He said on Aug. 16 that he had never paid less than 13 percent in the past decade and his campaign said the figure he cited represented his share of federal income tax.

‘Old Friend’

“I hosted a fundraiser for an old friend in May,” Leder said in his statement. Leder also threw a fundraiser for Romney at his Boca Raton home in September 2011, where guests were served brie-stuffed French toast and short-rib tartlets.

At the May fundraiser, Romney also said the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is going to “remain an unsolved problem” and that pressuring Israel to make concessions to get the Palestinians to act “is the worst idea in the world.” He discounted the prospects for Middle East peace between Israel and the Palestinians, a goal that has been sought for decades by presidents from both parties.

Romney, who created buyout firm Bain Capital LLC in 1984, has brought unprecedented attention to the long-secretive private-equity industry during his campaign for the White House. Republican primary opponents Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry assailed Romney over his private-equity past, and the Obama campaign has criticized the former buyout manager for outsourcing jobs and closing factories.

Fixing Companies

Private-equity firms raise money from investors such as public pensions, foundations and endowments and pair that money with debt to finance the purchase and amplify returns when they sell. Once a cottage industry, private equity has grown to manage an estimated $3 trillion in assets worldwide, according to researcher Preqin Ltd.

Leder started Sun Capital with Rodger Krouse, an investment banking colleague at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. whom Leder met at Wharton. They opted to locate the firm in Florida and planned to buy small companies in the Southeast, Leder said in a 2008 interview with Bloomberg Markets magazine.

When the regional strategy failed, the pair turned initially to consulting and eventually to buying troubled companies they could fix and eventually sell for a profit. The firm has gone on to invest in more than 305 companies with combined sales of more than $45 billion, according to its website.

Friendly’s Bankruptcy

Sun last year agreed to retain ownership of Friendly Ice Cream Corp., the restaurant company created in 1935 and commonly known as “Friendly’s,” after taking the chain through bankruptcy. Friendly’s closed 63 locations as part of the filing, while keeping 424 sites open.

Sun has a reputation for focusing on smaller, difficult deals where it can deploy a team of operating experts to cut costs or jump-start growth. Sun earlier this month agreed to buy closely held S&N Communications, a company that services utilities and telecommunications companies.

“S&N Communications is a niche business overlooked by many buyers, but has attractive cash flow characteristics,” Leder said in a statement announcing the deal.

Leder was among a small group of private-equity investors who joined together to personally buy the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team. Others in the consortium, led by Apollo’s Joshua Harris, include Blackstone Group LP (BX)’s David Blitzer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Kelly in New York at jkelly14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christian Baumgaertel at cbaumgaertel@bloomberg.net

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