Jan 27, 2021 - Economy

Venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya eyes run for California governor

An illustration of a map outline of California set against a green screen background of code

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The new king of SPACs has his eyes on a different title: Governor of California.

Driving the news: Chamath Palihapitiya is very seriously considering a run for gov, if incumbent Gov. Gavin Newsom succumbs to a burgeoning recall effort.

Who? Chamath Palihapitiya is an early Facebook executive who went on to found a VC firm called Social Capital, which he later turned into a something akin to a family office. He's also become a prolific SPAC sponsor (both via his own vehicles and through PIPEs), and just yesterday made headlines for buying call options on GameStop.

Three things to know:

1. This isn't a joke, or a rich man's fleeting aspiration. Chamath has a track record of following through once he sets his mind to something, no matter how much critical noise it generates.

2. He has a platform as unconventionally bold as his business history, including an elimination of state income taxes that Chamath believes would be offset by a rush of businesses into the state. The basic pitch would be that this could reverse the recent trend of tech company/investor departures.

  • Plus, he wants state-backed income share agreements to fight future student debt, higher minimum teacher salaries, and $2,000 checks per child born in-state.

3. He has major political liabilities, given that voters are likely to first be introduced to him as a Silicon Valley billionaire (or, worse, a Facebook billionaire).

Caveat on repeat: Newsom is under pressure for his pandemic response management, but that could wane if the vaccination process improves. No recall, no Chamath campaign.

The bottom line: This is California politics. Never say never.

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