You may have heard about love triangles, but this story is more like a contentious triangle.
It couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time for the GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. At the request of the Boston Globe, a Boston court ordered on Thursday that court documents pertaining to the 1988 divorce of Staples CEO Tom Stemberg and wife Maureen Sullivan Stemberg be unsealed. Documents which show his ex-wife and her high-powered lawyer, Gloria Allred, accused him of lying during the divorce to prevent his wife from getting a fair settlement.
What does all this have to do with Romney, you ask? Well, unfortunately for him, he is starring in the drama. The then-Bain Capital CEO, good friend and business partner to Staples "head honcho" Stemberg, testified on behalf of his friend. This testimony is now at the center of the controversy and Allred and her client, the ex-Mrs. Stemberg, reportedly claim that he lied under oath to help his friend protect his vast wealth and cheat his ex.
According to the Boston Globe, Romney had testified that Staples stock was worth much less that the actual value—one-tenth of the price, which was the rate at which his friend/business partner's ex-wife’s shares were valued. He also told the court, under oath, that the company was not likely to grow in the future. The ex-Mrs. Stemberg then sold her shares soon after the divorce based on Romney’s evaluation at $2.25 and $2.48 per share. However, a miracle seemed to happen one year after the divorce, for Staples went public in 1989, selling shares at $22.50 each, ten times the value Romney had testified to. Both men ended up making millions on the deal.
More than 20 years later and this now surfaces, which may cause Romney’s supporters to cry foul. Is this a publicity stunt to discredit the Romney campaign, or is there legitimate cause for concern? Allred reportedly insists that her client was duped by her ex-husband and Romney, who had gone on to make a killing with Staples shares after the divorce. Reports say in 1990, two years after the divorce, the ex-Mrs. Stemberg sued her husband for the subterfuge but was unsuccessful in getting the terms of the divorce changed. Romney testified in 1991 that she received a fair settlement of 500,000 shares valued at $2.25 each. She reportedly also got the couple’s home valued at almost $700,000 at the time.
Tom Stemberg is a very wealthy man, and that 1989 public deal netted the 23 Staples stores over $200 million and Stemberg himself made a killing of $12.8 million for 576,000 shares. If his wife had known the true value and waited, she would have been an extremely wealthy woman today.
The Romney camp is reportedly not fazed by the courts unsealing the decades old testimony and say he has nothing to hide.
Meanwhile there is a potential feud brewing between the Boston Globe and lawyer Allred and her client, for the Globe, after getting the court documents unsealed, apparently does not want to pursue it further. They claim the request to the court was simply for investigative purposes—looking at a presidential nominee’s records, not to personally help the ex-Mrs. Stemberg—who has battled Tom Stemberg in court for over a decade.
Allred is working hard to change the court's confidentiality agreement and wants her client to have an opportunity to publicly address Romney’s testimony. She thought the Boston Globe petition was a step in that direction. The court doesn’t agree and rules she has to “file a separate motion to amend the order.”
I’m sure we are going to hear more on this before the election date of Nov. 6 rolls around. Stay tuned.
If you like writing about US politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.