California billionaire moves on from hedge fund, to clean energy

By Laurie Bennett

October 29, 2012 at 6:39am

Tom Steyer’s announcement last week that he would step down from the hedge fund he founded, Farallon Capital, came as no surprise to those who have been paying attention to his political and nonprofit activities.

The San Francisco billionaire has been playing an increasing role in California politics.

Steyer has donated more than $21 million this year to support California Proposition 39, which would increase taxes on out-of-state businesses. Two years ago, he gave $5 million toward the successful effort to block California Prop 23, which would have suspended the state’s global warming law.

He is also a bundler for the Obama campaign, raising almost $1.2 million so far. In 2008, he was a fundraiser for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Tom Steyer
Tom Steyer

Last week, Steyer sent a letter to investors saying it was time to focus on giving back.

“I want my life to revolve around service in one form or another,” he wrote, “including continuing participation in our community bank, in encouraging the advanced energy economy and in specific public policy initiatives here in California.”

Last year he and his brother James, founder of Common Sense Media, launched an organization called the Center for the Next Generation. The nonprofit group will develop educational projects supporting alternative energy.

Tom Steyer has pledged $15 million to the project. He and his wife, Kat Taylor, are also participants in Giving Pledge, a program started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, in which wealthy Americans commit to giving away at least half of their fortunes.

The couple donated $25 million to Yale in 2011 for the Energy Sciences Institute. They also committed $40 million for an energy institute at Stanford.

Steyer told Reuters that he has no plans to run for office, although a think tank may be in his future.

His top priority, he said, would be clean energy.

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 Read related stories: Energy · Philanthropy & nonprofits · Recent Stories · Top one percent  


  • #1.   Earl Richards 10.29.2012

    Texas oil corporations have been gouging Californians and the California economy for years with excessive, gasoline prices, which are usually higher than the national average. It is time that these corporations started to give something back. The $1 billion should be spent in California. Vote “Yes” on Prop 39.

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