Wednesday, April 20, 2016

New Trend: Billionaire Think Tanks

We all know that billionaire's give tons of money to think tanks both large and small.  But a new trend has been taking shape that is redefining the traditional system of think tanks getting money from wealthy donors.

Now, a number of billionaires are starting their own think tanks rather than relying on ones that already exist.  Here is a recent example from The New York Times:
In a wood-paneled conference room in Stanford, Calif., a score of scholars, many of them eminent and some from as far away as Johannesburg and Beijing, gathered last month to compare philosophical notions of hierarchy and equality.
The gathering itself had no overt hierarchy, though one participant seemed a little more equal than the others. When Nicolas Berggruen spoke, no one interrupted. Only he occasionally checked his phone. And at dinner, the guests received fruit tarts for dessert — except for Mr. Berggruen, who was served chocolate mousse.
Mr. Berggruen, 54, is an investor and art collector who was once known as the “homeless billionaire” because he lived in itinerant luxury in five-star hotels. Now he is grounded in Los Angeles where he presides over a bespoke think tank, the Berggruen Institute.
The institute is a striking example of how wealthy philanthropists are reshaping the landscape with smaller versions of the foundations established by Bill Gates and George Soros. Sean Parker, one of the entrepreneurs behind Napster and Facebook, has a research institute, The Parker Foundation, which this month pledged $250 million for cancer immunotherapy. He is also a co-founder of the Economic Innovation Group, which labels itself an “ideas laboratory.” Tom Steyer, who made his fortune as a hedge fund manager in California, has several environmental nonprofit groups, and last year created the Fair Shake Commission to redress economic inequality.

The Berggruen Institute, founded in 2010 and based in Los Angeles, definitely has the coolest prize of any think tank that Think Tank Watch can think of - a $1 million prize in philosophy.

The think tank's Board of Advisors can be found here, and includes Arianna Huffington, Mohamed El-Erian, and former President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch on billionaires and think tanks.