By Scott Malone and Tim McLaughlin
CANTON, Mass. Oct 25 Republican presidential
challenger Mitt Romney's testimony from a 1991 court hearing
related to the founder of Staples Inc appeared to
contain little likely to damage the candidate's chances in the
Nov. 6 general election.
The 192-page filing, released with a Massachusetts court's
approval on Thursday, shows that the retailer, prior to its
initial public offering, issued a new class of shares to help
fund Staples founder Thomas Stemberg's divorce from Maureen
The Norfolk Probate & Family Court in Canton, Massachusetts,
south of Boston, on Thursday approved the release of hundreds of
pages of testimony Romney delivered at a hearing on Thomas
Stemberg's divorce from Sullivan Stemberg, at the Boston Globe
The office-supplies retailer - in which Bain Capital, a
private equity fund that Romney worked for before entering
politics, was an early investor - had privately sold a new class
of shares to facilitate the divorce, former Massachusetts Gov.
Romney said, according to the transcripts.
"It was something which was done in my opinion, it was
initiated as a favor. Tom needed to have a settlement with his
wife so that was the genesis of it," Romney said, according to
The "D" class of shares at issue could be converted to
common stock, unlike earlier shares sold in three prior rounds
of fundraising, which held greater voting rights, Romney said,
according to the transcript.
Thomas Steinberg spoke on Romney's behalf at the Republican
National Convention in August.
Sullivan Stemberg's attorney, Gloria Allred, had sought both
to have the transcripts released and to free her client from a
gag order that prevents both Sullivan Stemberg and her former
husband from discussing terms of their divorce.
Norfolk Probate & Family Court Assistant Judicial Case
Manager Jennifer Ulwick agreed to the release of the documents
but declined to lift the gag order.
Allred warned that without Sullivan Stemberg's comments the
testimony may mean little to the general public.
"Out of context, it is essentially meaningless to the
public, and she can put it in context," Allred said, referring
to her client.
Romney provided testimony in 1991 on behalf of Stemberg, who
was battling a post-divorce lawsuit.
Sullivan Stemberg has disputed Romney's description of the
value of the company, according to a filmmaker who interviewed
A spokesman for Thomas Stemberg said he was pleased that the
judge had upheld the order preventing him or his ex-wife from
discussing the case.
"We are delighted that the court has upheld the
confidentiality order in this case, which has nothing to do with
Governor Romney," said George Regan, a spokesman for Stemberg.
"It is and always has been a private family matter that should
not be subject to public speculation."
ROMNEY LAWYER DOES NOT OBJECT
Romney attorney Robert Jones said the candidate had no
objection to the testimony being made public.
"These tabloid charges being shopped by Gloria Allred, one
of President Obama's most prominent supporters, are absolutely
false," said Jones, of the Boston law firm Ropes & Gray. "There
is no new information here."
Allred, who has donated to Obama's re-election campaign,
denied the moves were politically motivated.
Staples also raised no objections to the release.
At issue is how Romney described the value of Staples. An
independent filmmaker who interviewed Sullivan Stemberg for an
uncompleted movie project told Reuters on Wednesday that she
felt he inaccurately described the value of the company.
Staples, which went public in 1989, was worth $264.4 million
on June 26, 1991, the first day of Romney's testimony.
Three months later, the stock price had climbed 26 percent
to push its market value to $334.28 million on Sept. 26, 1991. A
year after Romney's testimony, Staples was worth $507.1 million.
Romney in testimony described Thomas Steinberg as a typical
entrepreneur, placing high odds on the success of his business,
according to the testimony.
"He spoke about the future as if it were here today and
minimized the, you know, in raising money from board members
individually minimized the, in his own mind, the risks and
maximized the probability of a high degree of success," Romney
said, according to the transcript.