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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Private equity firm Pine Island Capital Partners just hit the revolving door lottery, for better or for worse.

Driving the news: President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary, less than five months after he joined Pine Island as a partner. It also comes after fellow Pine Island partner became Biden's secretary of state pick.

Why it matters: It's common for someone to leverage public sector experience in the private sector, or vice versa, but fairly unusual to go from top-level public to private and then back into top-level public service. At least for non-lawyers.

  • One reason is that Biden is the first ex-VP since Nixon to return after an intermission.

As we previously reported, Pine Island was formed in 2018 by former CIT Group and Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain, former Goldman Sachs buyout big Phil Cooper, and ex-Coca-Cola exec Clyde Tuggle.

  • It focuses on mid-market companies in a variety of sectors, including aerospace and defense, and so far has bought two companies via a fundless sponsor model and raised $200 million for a SPAC.

Between the lines: Pine Island obviously knew it was adding partners with D.C. influence, and was pretty explicit about it in the SPAC prospectus, but couldn't have predicted that two of its hires would end up among the next administration's four most powerful Cabinet posts.

From a D.C. cynicism perspective, Pine Island hit it out of the park.

  • Sure a Sec. Austin would need to recuse himself from any related contracting or procurement decisions, but the historical relationship cannot be erased.
  • And having friends in the highest of places could indirectly help Pine Island raise money or add portfolio companies.

On the other hand, some potential targets and investors might fret about the appearance of conflict, or being tied to a private equity firm that's likely to become a GOP boogeyman.

  • The next Pine Island deal, if related to government, is almost certain to be on the N.Y. Times front page — the type of spotlight that many seek to avoid.
  • Pine Island also may be the subject of disclosure fights during Senate confirmation hearings, including requests for the identities of its limited partners (such agreements often include nondisclosure agreements).

The bottom line: Pine Island's days as an under-the-radar upstart are over.

Go deeper

SPAC avalanche does some good

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

An avalanche of special purpose acquisition companies — better known as SPACs — raised capital this year to help startups bypass the lengthy and difficult IPO process.

Why it matters: Having more public companies is widely viewed as healthy for the markets and for the American economy, even if the SPAC path elicited skepticism and accusations of froth.

Mitch McConnell's remarks on Black voters raise ire

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during a Capitol Hill news conference earlier this year. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been widely criticized for comments he made this week about Black American voters.

Driving the news: When asked by a reporter Wednesday about concerns among voters of color, McConnell said "the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, Black American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans."

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump’s friends worry legal pick for N.Y. case lacks experience

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Close associates and advisers to Donald Trump tell Axios they're concerned by his decision to use a relatively inexperienced New Jersey attorney, Alina Habba, in his high-stakes legal fight against New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Why it matters: A former president typically has access to the country's most prestigious experts, including lawyers. Trump has turned to the former general counsel for a parking garage company, who works from a small law office near his Bedminster, N.J., country club.