In June 1995 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded the XIX Olympic Winter Games to Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) had worked hard for years, and finally was awarded this prestigious 2002 event. Along the way much one-on-one effort was made with the IOC members. However, this effort brought about claims of improprieties. By 1998 the scandal-plagued SLOC was in trouble, damaged by allegations of bribery involving top officials. In April 1998 I was appointed by Governor Michael Leavitt and Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini to be a member of the SLOC Board of Trustees, and in February 1999 I was asked to serve on the Management Committee.
It was in early December 1998, that Governor Leavitt invited Mitt Romney to visit Utah to meet several of the board members in hopes to recruit him to serve as SLOC’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Mitt had expressed ambivalence about the prospect of becoming head of SLOC, but we were determined to prevail upon him to accept. Governor Leavitt believed Mitt was the right person for the job. Frankly, we needed a new, squeaky-clean image.
Although Mitt was an outsider to Utah, he had great credentials as a business leader, who in 1984 with two partners founded Bain Capital, the highly successful private equity investment firm.
Mitt Romney was unanimously selected by the SLOC Board, and announced publicly on February 11, 1999. It was great news for the committee, the State of Utah, and all the participating athletes and spectators from around the world.
Once at the helm, Mitt discovered the full extent of the financial trouble facing SLOC. A number of sponsors either had withdrawn or were on the fence. The prospect of budget cuts was looming, and Mitt was concerned that the Cultural Olympiad program would suffer from the cutback. Mitt and I met to discuss the possibilities of raising money for this important component. Mitt believed the cultural aspect of the Olympic Games was an integral part of its success. Without it, we would lose the people-to-people contact between countries and a substantial amount of cultural diversity. Mitt committed a substantial amount of his personal funds, asking me to match the amount, which I immediately agreed to do. Ultimately the committee raised more than $20 million. This effort ensured one of the best-attended Cultural Olympiad programs in recent Olympic history.
Mitt had integrity, and was a great leader who brought back from near ashes, a successful Olympic event, one that was cash positive for the State. Before Mitt arrived on the scene, candidly, all of us thought we would be in the “red” as much as $100 million. Instead we were profitable and ended up with many paid-for usable facilities. Mitt gained the confidence of all the sponsors, and support for the new SLOC structure; the worldwide appeal for the Olympic events in Utah; and led the charge to its successful outcome. I was proud to be on Mitt’s team.
In almost fifty years of operating multiple business enterprises, and my public service as United States Ambassador, I had met few people who approach Mitt’s integrity, intelligence, tenacity, business acumen, and ability to surround himself with capable leaders. So, is Mitt Fit to Serve as President of the United States — the answer is unequivocally, yes!