Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mitt and Ben

Most people know the Obama administration and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu have had a hard time playing nice together. What is less well known is nature of the personal relationship between Netanyahu and Mitt Romney. Crossing paths in their formative years while learning the ropes at the Boston Consulting Group, the two formed a bond that has endured for over three decades. After attending business school in Boston - Romney at Harvard and Netanyahu at M.I.T. - the pair both decided to go work at BCG, a scrappy young startup consultancy that had yet to prove that it could compete against the big boys (McKinsey, Booz Allen etc.). According to former colleagues, both men stood out not only for their intellect (which was indeed formidable) but also for their personal lives (Mitt Romney’s dad had run for president while Netanyahu himself had served in the Israeli special forces). They never actually worked on a major project together, but that didn’t stop either of them leaving a lasting impression on the other. In order to share valuable knowledge about case assignments across the 100 man firm, BCG’s founder, Bruce Henderson, would preside over a Monday morning information sharing meeting of the firm’s employees. The gatherings were intellectually demanding, but it was in this forum that, according to Romney, Netanyahu shined. As for Romney, Netanyahu has said that he was “Henderson’s favorite.”

The pair remained in touch through a network of family and friends. Later, in 2003, when Romney became governor of Massachusetts, Netanyahu visited him. Having recently stepped down as Israel’s finance minister, Netanyahu shared some insight into how he had managed to downsize government in Israel. The NYT article (linked to below) points out that Netanyahu has been careful to stay out of the U.S. election campaign, but given Mitt’s stated views on Iran and considering this old friendship, it is not hard to imagine who he is rooting for.
Read more about it here: NYTimes