CANTON — Mitt Romney testified under oath in 1991 that the former wife of Staples founder Tom Stemberg got a fair deal in the couple’s 1988 divorce, even though the company shares Maureen Sullivan Stemberg received were valued at a fraction of Staples’ stock price on the day of its initial public offering only a year later.
At the time the Stembergs split, Romney suggested, there was little indication Staples’ value would soon skyrocket.
Romney’s testimony in a post-divorce lawsuit brought in 1990 by Sullivan Stemberg was unsealed on Thursday in Norfolk Probate and Family Court at the Globe’s request. Sullivan Stemberg sued unsuccessfully to amend the couple’s financial agreement after Staples went public in 1989 and closed its first day of trading at $22.50 per share.
Stemberg left his wife in February 1987, and the divorce was finalized in July 1988. Before the official split, the couple negotiated an agreement in which Sullivan Stemberg got 500,000 shares of Staples stock, which Stemberg valued at $2.25 per share.
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Sullivan Stemberg also kept the couple’s Dedham home, worth $690,000 at the time, and in February 1988 sold 175,000 shares of Staples stock at $2.25 per share — before it went public — to pay off the mortgage. She sold another 80,000 shares two months later, at $2.48 per share.
“In my opinion, that’s a good price to sell the securities at,” Romney, now the Republican nominee for president, testified in June 1991. After that, the number of Sullivan Stember’s shares shrank to 81,667 due to a three-for-one reverse stock split just before Staples had its initial public offering.
On April 28, 1989, the company made its initial public offering at $19 per share and ended its first day at $22.50. This came barely a year after Sullivan Stemberg’s sale of more than half of her shares at less than $2.50 a share (pre-split).
The closing price made Staples, which had 23 stores at the time, worth more than $200 million. Stemberg, holding 567,000 shares, claimed $12.8 million in company stock.