Poor results when Gabriel Gomez joined the Kirkland's boardJune 18, 2013: 12:25 PM ET
U.S. Senate candidate's record as a public company director.
FORTUNE -- We are just one week away from a special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts, pitting Democratic Congressman Ed Markey against Republican private equity executive Gabriel Gomez.
If you are a Massachusetts voter and still unaware Gomez was a private equity executive, don't be embarrassed. He has steadfastly refused to talk about it in any detail, and hasn't referenced it in any of his television advertisements. Instead, he has referred all such questions to Advent International, which has issued a blanket "no comment" on all things Gomez. Kind of a circular silencing squad.
The Markey campaign has been similarly mum on what Gomez did for the decade-plus between his time as a Navy SEAL and as a U.S. Senate candidate -- an omission that borders on political malfeasance in a blue state like Massachusetts.
What Gomez did or didn't do at Advent is unlikely to be the deciding factor for most voters. But, at the same time, it's downright bizarre that he's asking to be elected to the U.S. Senate without providing details of his private equity history. We're talking here about the past nine years of his professional life -- a job that helped make him wealthy enough to run for office in the first place. Imagine if Ed Markey refused to discuss any Congressional votes he took since 2004...
So it was in that spirit that I recently wrote about Synventive, which is the only deal Gomez is credited with leading during his time at Advent International. Sources say that most of his time with Advent was spent doing business development work, but he did sit on the boards of four other companies: American Radiology Services, Americus Dental Labs, Keystone Automotive Operations and Kirkland's.
The first three were privately-held while Gomez sat on the boards, so it's difficult to glean anything about performance during his tenure. But Kirkland's (KIRK), a Nashville-based specialty retailer of home decor and gifts, already was public when he was elected to its board in June 2006 (Advent had originally invested ten years earlier, and eight years before Gomez joined the firm).
Gomez's time on the Kirkland's board doesn't perfectly match up to the company's public reporting schedule, so here's the best we can do:
- Kirkland's operated 342 stores when Gomez joined the board, and was down to 321 stores just before he stepped down in December 2008 (his resignation came shortly after Advent sold its remaining shares).
- It reported 4,878 employees as of March 2006 (four months before he joined), and that it had shed 1,432 of them by March 2009 (three months after he left).
- Kirkland's revenue for the fiscal year ending January 28, 2006 was $415 million and grew 7.6% to $446.8 million in the next fiscal year (for which Gomez joined in the middle). Revenue then fell 11.2% for fiscal 2007 and 1.4% to $391.3 million for fiscal 2008 (ending 1/31/09). For greater context, Advent says that Kirkland's only generated $112 million in annual revenue prior to its original 1996 investment.
- Net income remained relatively flat (and nonexistent) for between fiscal 2005 and fiscal 2006, before the company reported a $25.89 million net loss in fiscal 2007 and recovered with $9.3 million in profits for fiscal 2008.
- Kirkland's stock was trading at $5.76 per share on the day he was elected to the board, and opened trading at $2.56 per share on the day he resigned.
I asked Gomez spokesman Will Ritter about the candidate's time at Kirkland's, and he replied that "Gabriel Gomez is happy to compare private sector resumes with Congressman Ed Markey and is proud of his work in Boston for Advent International."
The snark there, of course, is that Markey doesn't have a private sector record. But that's as deep as Gomez is willing to go.
Gomez probably are all sorts of reasonable explanations for why Kirkland's lost revenue and jobs while he sat on its board (e.g., housing slowdown, etc.). His campaign's silence, however, leaves us with nothing but the cold, hard numbers. So if you're a Massachusetts voter, consider yourself slightly more informed.
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