Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In Superman (and Seinfeld) lore, "bizarro" world is one in which the people and places are the same but different. Almost as if they've been inverted.

The big picture: SPACs have become bizarro private equity.

What's happening: Private equity firms have spent decades convincing public companies to go private, or private companies to swap financial sponsors.

  • They tell CEOs that being private means no longer worrying so much about quarterly numbers, creating flexibility to make decisions in the company's best long-term interests.
  • They won't pace public backlash over executive pay or the other disclosure downsides of public company life.

Now, many of these same private equity firms are creating SPACs whose primary purpose is to take private companies public.

  • Names like TPG and Gores and ArcLight and (just announced) H.I.G. Capital.
  • The acquisition part is the same, but everything else is different. Even the transaction financing is inverted, often about equity instead of debt.
  • It is, in a word, bizarro.

The bottom line: Private equity has always been as much about business opportunity as it's been about business ideology. Its enthusiastic participation in SPACs reflects that reality, even if it defies the rhetoric.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Oct 12, 2020 - Economy & Business

SoftBank prepares to launch a SPAC

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

SoftBank is planning to launch a blank check acquisition company in the upcoming weeks, according to comments made today at the Milken Virtual Conference by senior SoftBank executive Rajeev Misra.

Details: Axios has learned that Goldman Sachs and Citigroup would manage the IPO process, and that the intention is not to acquire an existing SoftBank portfolio company and bring it public.

Oct 12, 2020 - Podcasts

Jeffrey Epstein's money trail

Jeffrey Epstein died more than a year ago, but the investigation into how he made his money is heating up. The latest is a New York Times report that private equity titan Leon Black might have paid Epstein to up $75 million over the years, which is much more than was previously disclosed.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper with Matthew Goldstein, a New York Times business reporter who co-authored today's story.

Post-debate poll finds Biden strong on every major issue

Joe Biden speaks Friday about "The Biden Plan to Beat COVID-19," at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

This is one of the bigger signs of trouble for President Trump that we've seen in a poll: Of the final debate's seven topics, Joe Biden won or tied on all seven when viewers in a massive Axios-SurveyMonkey sample were asked who they trusted more to handle the issue.

Why it matters: In a time of unprecedented colliding crises for the nation, the polling considered Biden to be vastly more competent.