Billionaire Robert Mercer, who supported Ted Cruz early in the 2016 election but eventually threw his backing, and his money, behind Donald Trump, is selling his stake in Breitbart News to his daughters and has publicly broken with his friend, former White House chief strategist and current Breitbart executive chairman Steve Bannon.
The 71-year-old hedge fund manager is also stepping down from his role as co-CEO of Renaissance technologies, but the media will likely stay focused on the reasons he is distancing himself from Breitbart and Bannon, and severing ties entirely with controversial former Breitbart Editor Milo Yiannopoulos.
Pointed questions will also be raised about Breitbart’s future, especially given the current advertising boycott they’ve been facing due to what many consider provocative commentary on the website.
The news site itself covered the transaction by downplaying the politics and instead focusing on Mercer’s move within his company, writing, “Billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Mercer announced Thursday that he will step down as co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies at the beginning of 2018 and intends to sell his stake in Breitbart News.”
Mercer explained his reasoning in a statement distributed by Bloomberg Businessweek via Twitter.
Ever since his stake in Breitbart was revealed to a Congressional committee, the billionaire has taken heat from press that “has also intimated that my politics marches in lockstep with Steve Bannon’s” has even gone so far as to label him a “white supremacist.”
“I have great respect for Mr. Bannon, and from time to time, I do discuss politics with him. However, I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically. Those decisions do not always align with Mr. Bannon’s,” Mercer wrote.
Mercer had stronger words for Milo Yiannopoulos, writing, “Without individuals thinking for themselves, society as a whole will struggle to distinguish the signal of truth from the correlated noise of conformity. I supported Milo Yiannopoulos in the hope and expectation that his expressions of views contrary to the social mainstream and his spotlighting of the hypocrisy of those who would close down free speech in the name of political correctness would promote the type of open debate and freedom of thought that is being throttled on many American college campuses today.”
Instead, the billionaire feels that Yiannopoulos has “caused pain and divisiveness undermining the open and productive discourse that I had hoped to facilitate.”
“I was mistaken to have supported him, and for several weeks have been in the process of severing all ties with him,” wrote Mercer.
Although Mercer has largely been silent on politics until now, he strongly supported Trump once he won the Republican nomination, and his daughter, Rebekah, even chaired Trump’s transition committee.
Daily Mail reports that Rebekah Mercer is friends with Bannon and has already been named as a Breitbart co-owner.
Read Mercer’s statement in its entirety below:
During the past year, I have been the object of a great deal of scrutiny from the press. I have declined to comment on what has been written about me, imagining that with time the attention would dissipate. Because that has yet to happen, I have decided to correct some of the misinformation that has been published about me. It is not my intention to impose the views I describe below on anyone else.
My goal is simply to explain my thinking, the very essence of which is that all of us should think for ourselves.
I believe that individuals are happiest and most fulfilled when they form their own opinions, assume responsibility for their own actions, and spend the fruits of their own labor as they see fit. I believe that a collection of individuals making their own decisions within the confines of a clear and concise set of laws that they have determined for themselves will advance society much more effectively than will a collection of experts who are confident in their knowledge of what is best for everyone else. This is why I support conservatives, who favor a smaller, less powerful government.
A society founded on the basis of the individual freedom that flourishes under a limited federal government has no place for discrimination. Of the many mischaracterizations made of me by the press, the most repugnant to me have been the intimations that I am a white supremacist or a member of some other noxious group.
Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, creed, or anything of that sort is abhorrent to me. But more than that, it is ignorant.
The press has also intimated that my politics marches in lockstep with Steve Bannon’s. I have great respect for Mr. Bannon, and from time to time I do discuss politics with him. However, I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically. Those decisions do not always align with Mr. Bannon’s.
Without individuals thinking for themselves, society as a whole will struggle to distinguish the signal of truth from the correlated noise of conformity. I supported Milo Yiannopoulos in the hope and expectation that his expression of views contrary to the social mainstream and his spotlighting of the hypocrisy of those who would close down free speech in the name of political correctness would promote the type of open debate and freedom of thought that is being throttled on many American college campuses today. But in my opinion, actions of and statements by Mr. Yiannopoulos have caused pain and divisiveness undermining the open and productive discourse that I had hoped to facilitate. I was mistaken to have supported him, and for several weeks have been in the process of severing all ties with him.
For personal reasons, I have also decided to sell my stake in Breitbart News to my daughters.
I would also like to inform you of a decision I have reached with respect to my role at Renaissance, an organization I adore with colleagues whom I deeply respect and admire. I am 71 years old, the same age that Jim Simons was when he retired. I do not plan to retire, but I do plan to relinquish my management responsibilities.
Peter Brown and I have been Co-CEOs for the past eight years. On January 1, 2018, I will step down from my position as Co-CEO and resign from the board of directors. I will continue with the firm as a member of its technical staff, focusing on the research work that I find most fulfilling. Peter will continue on as CEO, and I will provide him with my counsel whenever he feels that I can be helpful to him and to the company where I have spent so many wonderful years.
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