In the race for Illinois governor, no one quibbles with the fact that Republican Bruce Rauner has been financially successful in the private equity business.
But an important issue looming over his candidacy is whether he should take responsibility — as Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn claims over and over in debates and TV ads that he has not done — for the things that went wrong at the hundreds of companies his private equity firm, GTCR created, bought and sold.
It’s a question that divides not only the two rivals in the close contest, but also those who have worked in or study the private equity business. For some, the answer depends on whether Rauner served directly on the specific board that oversaw each of the companies, and if he didn’t, how much one would expect him to know as a principle partner at the top of a big firm like GTCR.
Dan Sweeney, executive director of the Institute for Enterprise Ethics at the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver, said it’s unrealistic to expect someone in Rauner’s position to be aware of every transaction, particularly if he wasn’t on the specific board or investment committee.
“There are some who would say if you have the word ‘senior’ or ‘chief’ in your title you should know everything. I think that’s nuts,” Sweeney said.