Through Ampad, Bain bought several other office supply makers, borrowing heavily each time. By 1999, Ampad's debt reached nearly $400 million, up from $11 million in 1993, according to government filings.
Sales grew, too - for a while. But by the late 1990s, foreign competition and increased buying power by superstores like Bain-funded Staples sliced Ampad's revenues.
The result: Ampad couldn't pay its debts and plunged into bankruptcy. Workers lost jobs and stockholders were left with worthless shares.
Bain Capital, however, made money - and lots of it. The firm put just $5 million into the deal, but realized big returns in short order. In 1995, several months after shuttering a plant in Indiana and firing roughly 200 workers, Bain Capital borrowed more money to have Ampad buy yet another company, and pay Bain and its investors more than $60 million - in addition to fees for arranging the deal.
Bain Capital took millions more out of Ampad by charging it $2 million a year in management fees, plus additional fees for each Ampad acquisition. In 1995 alone, Ampad paid Bain at least $7 million. The next year, when Ampad began selling shares on public stock exchanges, Bain Capital grabbed another $2 million fee for arranging the initial public offering - on top of the $45 million to $50 million Bain reaped by selling some of its shares.
Bain Capital didn't escape Ampad's eventual bankruptcy unscathed. It held about one-third of Ampad's shares, which became worthless. But while as many as 185 workers near Buffalo lost jobs in a 1999 plant closing, Bain Capital and its investors ultimately made more than $100 million on the deal.