Billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya is taking his hunt for businesses to Britain.
Social Capital Hedosophia – the investment firm run by Palihapitiya and his partner Ian Osborne – is eyeing a $1 billion London listing for a company focused on fighting climate change, Bloomberg reported on Friday.
The new UK vehicle won’t be structured as a SPAC, but it will seek to make several acquisitions, sources told Bloomberg. It will also work on internal solutions to environmental problems, they said.
Palihapitiya, who will reportedly serve as CEO of the new company, has been shifting his gaze towards environmental investments recently. In January, he invested in commercial EV manufacturer Proterra ahead of its merger with blank-check firm ArcLight Clean Transition Corp.
He also sold his entire personal stake in Virgin Galactic for more than $200 million last week to help finance “a large investment I am making towards fighting climate change,” he told Insider in an emailed statement following the sale.
The space-tourism company’s chairman cashed out his 6.2 million shares at an average price of $35, netting him around $211 million. Palihapitiya, along with his business partner Ian Osborne, still indirectly own 15.8 million shares via SCH Sponsor Corp, their investment vehicle.
Palihapitiya previously sold 3.8 million Virgin Galactic shares in December, tweeting that he needed to free up cash to fund several new projects this year.
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson’s space startup went public in October 2019 by merging with Palihapitiya and Osborne’s Social Capital Hedosophia, a special-purpose acquisition vehicle or SPAC.
Palihapitiya is spearheading the current SPAC boom, using the vehicles to take companies such as Opendoor and Clover Health public at billion-dollar valuations.
Virgin Galactic’s stock price more than doubled in the first five weeks of this year, but has slumped by more than 40% since then. Its shares fell as much as 11% on Friday.
Here’s a chart showing Virgin Galactic’s stock price over the past year:
The Social Capital CEO and Virgin Galactic chairman also compared Facebook spreading disinformation to selling cigarettes, defended special-purpose acquisition vehicles (SPACs) as another way to take companies public, and argued the current market boom is fundamentally different from the bubble that preceded the 2008 financial crisis.
Here are Palihapitiya’s 15 best quotes from the interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity:
1. “The world’s richest person should be somebody that’s fixing and figuring out climate change.” – defending Tesla CEO Elon Musk surpassing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in net worth this week.
2. “The big disruption that’s coming is to power utilities. There are trillions of dollars of bonds, of capital expenditure, of value sitting inside the energy-generation infrastructure of the world that is gonna go upside down. When that goes pear-shaped, Tesla will double and triple again.” – arguing that Tesla is a clean-energy company that will eventually capture a chunk of the fossil-fuel industry’s value.
3. “I don’t understand why people are so focused on selling things that work. You’re paid to stay with people who know what they’re doing, and this is a guy who has consistently been one of the most important entrepreneurs in the world, so why bet against him? It’s the same thing with Bezos, why bet against him? You get behind these people who have incredibly strong character, who know what they’re doing, who aren’t gonna bend to short-term profits, and who are just gonna drive the train for 10 or 20 years and make the world a better place.” – explaining why he doesn’t plan to sell any Tesla shares.
4. “These guys are dancing, they are in rhythm, they’re in flow. Let them do their thing, get behind them. Don’t sell a share, just let ’em create value.”
5. “It is rocket fuel for assets. Whether those are housing markets, or whether those are capital purchases like cars or vacations, or stocks in this case if we’re still under a lockdown, these things are just gonna go to the moon for a while and so you just have to be long. Everybody who’s trying to understand why you shouldn’t be long, I think is going to regret it for at least the next 18 to 24 months.” – arguing that shrinking consumer credit-card debts, ballooning savings, and a record amount of funds in money markets will drive markets higher.
6. “Building products, cars, energy systems, batteries, retail infrastructure, robots, transforming financial services to be fair for everybody – that’s not trading derivatives and playing gotcha. That was not real value, those people were just shuffling shells around. This time it is different because people are making tangible things you can touch and feel.” – explaining why the current market boom won’t lead to a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.
7. “There’s a massive inequality gap in the United States. There’s trillions of dollars sitting inside of 401(k)s, they need to be allocated into things that can be fast-growing so that normal ordinary Americans can generate savings for their future retirement, for their homes, for their ability to pay for college. You’re not gonna do that by owning American Express. Those companies are dormant, legacy businesses, that game is over.”
8. “I don’t think it’s peak SPAC. You have to have a simple on-ramp to the public markets, a SPAC represents that. There are really going to be IPOs, initial public offerings, and now IPMs, initial public mergers, and it’s just gonna be the two ways that things are done.”
9. “Look at the amount of money we waste as a country on all kinds of random nonsense. We let politicians run into the Capitol, hang around for 2, 4, 6 years and then just take from the till.”
10. “Can you play the clip in 2012 and 2013 when it was at $200 and everybody was laughing at me on CNBC every time I would talk about Bitcoin? Where is it going? It’s probably going to $100,000, then $150,000, then $200,000.” – Palihapitiya didn’t specify a timeframe, saying it could take five or 10 years for Bitcoin to reach those prices.
11. “We really do need to have some kind of insurance we can keep under our pillow that gives us some access to an uncorrelated hedge. It’s going to eventually transition to something much more important but for right now, the fabric of society is frayed and until we figure out how to make it better, it’s time to just have a little schmuck insurance on the side.” – suggesting that events such as the siege on the Capitol have sapped faith in leaders and institutions, fueling demand for Bitcoin.
12. “It amplifies echo chambers on purpose and by design. If you’re somebody who for whatever reason feels disenfranchised, you can find a corner of the internet where you can amplify your worst fears, and unfortunately 90% of that activity now happens inside of Facebook.”
13. “We optimize for short-term profitability at the sake of our democracy. What we left in tatters was any sense that there was any sort of moral or ethical imperative that would govern decision making at that company. And so that saddens me for the people that work there.” – sharing his feelings as an ex-Facebook employee on the social network’s role in spreading the disinformation that led to protesters storming the Capital.
14. “There are people inside of that company who are building these things that are amplifying the lobotomization, the intellectual cornering of people so that they cannot learn what’s truly happening, so that their worst fears and their worst concerns are amplified. We need to do a better job of understanding that that diet is unhealthy. Now that you sell cigarettes that cause cancer, there need to be labels, they need to be put behind the counter, they need to be far away from the children’s reach.” – arguing that Facebook should be legally treated as a publisher and face tougher regulations.
15. “We just have to have a real ‘come to Jesus’ in this country about what’s truly important.”