I think the Olympics was his step into the public service career that really looks like it will last for the rest of his life. —Fraser Bullock
LEHI — Good news, Mitt Romney fans. Amid all the too-close-to-call projections for next week's presidential election, alongside the myriad of polls that place both President Barack Obama and Romney inside the margin of error for victory, comes a prediction that is unequivocal.
"Oh, he'll win, absolutely," Fraser Bullock declares.
Bullock is co-founder and managing director of Sorenson Capital, a private equity firm based at Thanksgiving Point. Backing the right horse, or company, is how he stays in business. Due diligence is what he does.
He's studied the data on the race for president. He's crunched the numbers.
"I'm very analytical," he says. "When I watch the polls and trends and patterns from past elections, when I see an incumbent with less than 50 percent favorability, they all point to a Mitt Romney presidency."
So, yeah, this is the same Fraser Bullock who is one of Mitt Romney's closest friends.
So factor in the bias factor.
But knowing him as well as he does only increases his confidence.
"He works incredibly hard," says Bullock of Romney. "He's very, very smart, and he refuses to fail. I've seen that firsthand."
It's been 32 years since they met. Bullock was a 25-year-old MBA graduate from BYU. Romney was a 33-year-old vice president at the management-consulting firm of Bain & Co., in Boston.
Romney also had attended BYU, several years ahead of Bullock, but he wasn't the connection that got Bullock the job. Two BYU professors, Ken Woolley and Pete Clark, knew people inside Bain & Co. and went to bat for Bullock, who became the first BYU hire at a firm that typically recruits from Harvard or Stanford (Romney's post-graduate alma maters).
From 1980 through 1984, Bullock and Romney worked together at Bain & Co. At that point, they joined with five other partners to start a private equity firm they called Bain Capital. That relationship lasted until 1986, when Bullock accepted a position with another company and moved on.
Bullock and Romney kept in touch only peripherally for the next 13 years, until the Salt Lake Olympics unexpectedly reunited them.
In 1999, Romney had left Bain Capital to take over as Winter Olympics CEO and tried to shore up the organizing committee, besieged by allegations of bribery. He called on his old pal Bullock to take over as chief operating officer and chief financial officer.
Just like that, they were back in the saddle, the Lewis & Clark of the Salt Lake Games. They faced a budget deficit when they started; they had a $100 million surplus two and a half years later when they finished.
"We worked every day together, we traveled the world together, we built this fantastic partnership where we trusted each other very, very deeply," Bullock says.
They talked about anything and everything. But there was one thing they didn't talk about.
"I never once heard him talk about the presidency," Bullock says.
The closest the subject ever came up was when Bullock wrote in his journal that he was so impressed by Romney's abilities that he thought he ought to run for president.
He did not share this sentiment with Romney.
Although, if Romney wins this Tuesday, count on it suddenly becoming a collector's item.
But even if Romney never talked about running for president, Bullock maintains the Utah Olympics played a huge part in putting him on the path to the presidency.
"He'd been a businessman before that," Bullock says. "But I think the Olympics was his step into the public service career that really looks like it will last for the rest of his life."
Heading the Olympics, Bullock points out, gave Romney all sorts of important new experiences: "He had to reach out to 83 countries. He had to become a very good diplomat working with the IOC. He had to turn around a severe budget problem. He had to assemble a great team. All those elements just added to his skill set and capability to be able to run for the presidency."
So if — or when — Romney becomes POTUS, the Salt Lake bid scandal deserves a big pat on the back.
Bullock plans to be with Romney on Tuesday in Boston to watch the results come in.
And after that? Will Bullock and Romney reunite yet again?
"I tell my wife I wish that Hawaii were a foreign country because I'd love to be ambassador to Hawaii," says Bullock. "Other than that, who knows?"
Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Monday and Friday. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org