Georgia Republican David Perdue worked for an Indian company between his time running Dollar General and his decision to run for the Senate — a period that was removed from his business website’s biography shortly before he announced his campaign last spring.
Perdue had a senior consulting role at Indian chemical textile conglomerate Gujarat Heavy Chemicals Ltd. (GHCL) between 2007 and 2009, helping the company, as it looked into creating retail operations in India. He rarely if ever brings up his work for that company on the campaign trail, and his time with GHCL has not previously been reported on.
Perdue has made his business career a central focus of his Senate campaign, touting himself as a can-do jobs creator and highlighting his work running Dollar General, Reebok, Sara Lee and other corporations. But Democrats — and some of his GOP opponents — have accused him of whitewashing the less flattering parts of his career, and recent documents highlighting his 2005 comments that he spent "most of [his] career" focused on outsourcing have led to renewed scrutiny of his business doings.
Recent polls have shown Perdue with a narrow lead against former charity executive Michelle Nunn (D) in the Senate race.
Perdue’s official website biography for Perdue Partners, a firm he co-owns with his cousin, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), once alluded to his work with GHCL.
“In 2007, after a major turn-around that included the sale of a Fortune 500 company, he retired to pursue international entrepreneurial interests. During the past three years, he has been involved in a start-up retail venture in India,” the original biography at Perdue Partners read.
But between February and April 2013, as he geared up for a Senate run, that six-paragraph biography was replaced by a much shorter single-paragraph one that deleted any reference to India, as well as some other parts of his career, including corporate boards he’s recently served on. Perdue officially launched his campaign in May.
His more robust 12-paragraph campaign biography also doesn’t mention the time in India, and he has made little to no mention of it on the campaign trail.
Earlier reports have pointed out that Perdue’s short-lived tenure running Pillowtex, a company that collapsed and laid off thousands shortly after he left for Dollar General, was also not mentioned in his online biographies.
His campaign says the Perdue Partners biography was shortened because he was getting increased demands for speaking engagements, and downplayed Perdue’s influence at the company, saying that he was just a consultant splitting time between India and the United States, and serving on a number of corporate boards at the same time.
It’s unclear exactly how much of Perdue’s time was spent on GHCL during those years. Perdue himself indicated in a 2011 interview that it was one of his major focuses, though his campaign says it was just one of many projects he was involved in and says he never lived full-time in India.
“I’ve spent the better part of the last three years in India helping people there start a retail operation,” Perdue said in a 2011 interview with Global Atlanta.
An August 2007 story in The Economic Times of India said Perdue would “head the retail operations” in India for GHCL.
Perdue’s campaign provided a one-page letter sent from GHCL to Perdue in late 2007 showing he was an independent consultant and adviser reporting to the chairman and board of directors of the company. His role was to help GHCL “in its effort to develop and retail operations in India, China and other countries in the region,” according to the contract. His campaign says he worked part time for GHCL, splitting his hours between India and the U.S.
“It's very clear this was a part-time job. He was traveling back and forth, and he had a growing amount of work with the other companies he was getting involved with,” Perdue campaign spokeswoman Megan Whittemore told The Hill. “He never relocated there; he never moved there. He traveled back and forth.”
Those retail operations were under the banner of Rosebys, a British home products chain the company had purchased shortly before he came aboard. Rosebys closed down its British operations in 2008, laying off more than 2,000 workers in the United Kingdom, citing pressure from the great recession, though GHCL kept the name alive for its expansion of retail stores in India.
Perdue’s campaign says he had no involvement with the British operation, and there's no evidence he did.
“He was never part of Rosebys,” said Whittemore. “They used the name Rosebys, but David was not doing anything outside of consulting for them on that specific project in India. He was working for the parent company, GHCL, and they were only using the name Rosebys.”
By 2011, two years after Perdue’s contract with GHCL concluded, Rosebys India had shuttered as well, citing pressures from the international economic recession.
Perdue’s campaign declined to put the candidate on the phone give more details about what his role was with the company.