Fortunate Son: Mitt Romney's life is his father's legacy

Published: Sunday, Dec. 16 2007 12:09 a.m. MST

When he resumed his studies, he went to Brigham Young University, the Mormon institution where Ann had enrolled. Students there embrace the church's prohibitions on alcohol, caffeine and premarital sex — one reason Romney said so many married young. The first of their five sons, Taggert, was born on their one-year anniversary.

The 1960s was a period of social and political tumult amid the Vietnam War and political assassinations. In part because of his limited time at Stanford, in part because of his collegiate hiatus for his mission work, in part because he attended button-down BYU, Romney stayed above the fray.

He avoided military service, first because of a student deferment, then because of his missionary work. In 1969, when he was finally eligible for the draft, he drew No. 300 in the lottery. No one with a number above 195 was taken that year.

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George Romney wanted his son to go to law school after BYU, but Mitt wanted to attend business school. He opted for both, enrolling in a dual-degree program at Harvard in 1971. Over five years, he would simultaneously earn a law degree from Harvard Law School and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Ann and Mitt Romney settled in the leafy Boston suburb of Belmont. Romney reveled in the role of husband and father, loading up son Tagg and his four brothers in a station wagon to take the family on vacations and day trips.

In June 1981, the family set off for an outing at a nearby lake. A park ranger told Romney not to launch his freshly painted boat, saying its registration numbers weren't properly displayed. He threatened a $50 fine.

In typical spreadsheet fashion, Romney calculated the fine as an acceptable price for his outing and decided to launch the boat anyway. The ranger quickly arrested him for disorderly conduct and hauled him off to the station.

The charges were dropped and the records sealed after Romney threatened to sue.

It was a rare clash with authority — and evidence of how vigorously Romney would protect his reputation.

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He graduated with honors from law school and in the top 5 percent of his business class, helping him land a prized job at the Boston Consulting Group. He used his analytical and financial skills to help companies streamline their operations and fatten their bottom lines.

He moved to a rival consulting firm, Bain & Co., in 1977, then headed a spin-off envisioned to combine analytical and management expertise with investments in promising companies.

With Romney at the helm, Bain Capital helped launch or reshape hundreds of companies, including Staples and Domino's Pizza. Romney went on to make tens of millions of dollars, part of a net worth now estimated at up to $250 million.

"He's able to focus through all the noise," said Bob White, a longtime friend and business associate.

Romney's leadership ability was needed in an unusual way in July 1996, when a Bain Capital partner called to say his teenage daughter had gone missing in New York City after a concert.

Romney shut down the company, gathered as many partners and employees as he could and raced to join the search. Soon Bain workers were pairing up to scour the city's parks and bars.

"It was like a needle in a haystack," White said.

Nonetheless, Romney's efforts caught the attention of a local television station, whose report in turn led to a tip from someone in the same house where the missing teenager ended up. Police traced the call and located the girl.

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In 1994, Romney decided to follow his father's path into politics. And like George Romney, Mitt did not shy from a political challenge. In one of the bluest of Democratic states, the Republican decided to challenge Kennedy, a liberal icon.

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