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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 April 2019

Former Starbucks chief's presidential bid may help Trump

In our latest billionaire roundup, US politics makes things complicated for Howard Shultz, while Australia bans a prominent Chinese businessman

Former Starbucks chief  Howard Schultz announced his potential 2020 presidential bid as an independent last month. Photo: Associated Press
Former Starbucks chief  Howard Schultz announced his potential 2020 presidential bid as an independent last month. Photo: Associated Press

Howard Schultz

Former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz may help Donald Trump’s prospects for re-election if he makes an independent bid for the presidency in 2020, according to a new survey.

Mr Schultz is unlikely to land in the White House, but he would probably pull a significant number of votes away from a Democratic candidate, according to the survey conducted by Optimus, a data-science firm that’s studying the effects of independent candidates on the 2020 race.

The 65-year-old Seattle billionaire is drawing 7.7 per cent of voters overall, but pulls twice as much support from Democrats (11.6 per cent) as Republicans (5.6 per cent). The poll highlights the reason Democrats reacted so angrily to Schultz’s announcement that he’s considering running for president as a centrist independent: the leading Democratic presidential hopefuls fare worse against Trump when Schultz is included in the race.

The national survey of 1,290 registered voters found former Vice President Joe Biden leading Mr Trump 50 per cent to 43 per cent in a head-to-head matchup. But Biden’s lead shrinks to 4 per cent when Mr Schultz is included. Mr Trump narrowly led Senator Kamala Harris 45 per cent to 43 per cent, but his lead swelled to 4 per cent with Mr Schultz as an option. Mr Trump also led 3-way races against Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Representative Beto O’Rourke.

Mr Schultz says he’s banking on a “silent majority” of Americans who are fed up with what he considers to be the extremity of the two major parties. Finding a path to 270 electoral votes would require him to win sizeable numbers of Democrats and Republicans, in addition to independents.

The path for an independent to win the White House is particularly onerous. Optimus modelled several possible outcomes for Mr Schultz and found that even winning 33 per cent of the popular vote would likely only net him about 22 electoral votes.

In 1992, billionaire H. Ross Perot won 19 per cent of the vote — the highest total of any recent independent candidate — and didn’t win a single electoral vote.

To mount a viable campaign, Mr Schultz will first have to make himself better known to voters. The Optimus survey, conducted Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, found that fewer than half of respondents (48 per cent) could identify him.

In this 2017 photo, leader of the opposition party Bill Shorten holds a photograph of Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. Photo: Associated Press
In this 2017 photo, leader of the opposition party Bill Shorten holds a photograph of Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. Photo: Associated Press

Huang Xiangmo

Australia has kicked out Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo - revoking his residency, denying him citizenship and preventing him from returning to his multi-million-dollar Sydney mansion. The 49-year-old Guangdong native is currently believed to be in Hong Kong.

In less than a decade, Mr Xiangmo went from a new arrival in Australia to hosting swanky waterside parties with political elites, to finally being declared persona non grata - as a result of his alleged links to China's Communist Party.

Experts say his case - which has prompted a furore in Australia over foreign donations to political parties - is a signal that Canberra is ready to curb China's ambitious operations to influence foreign political elites.

"It's a very significant thing," said Michael Shoebridge, former deputy director of Australia's defence and signals intelligence agencies.

According to Shoebridge, such operations are often led by the United Front Work Department, an agency of the Communist Party, and offshoot groups set up around the globe, like the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China.

It was Mr Huang's political influence and his links to the United Front Work Department that reportedly set off alarm bells for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the country's main spy agency.

"Huang was very active in promoting United Front Work and in getting close to politicians," said Gerry Groot, a China expert at the University of Adelaide.

His interests included the 2015 Australia-China free trade agreement and a contentious bilateral extradition treaty, according to local media reports.

In 2017, one-time opposition Labour power broker Sam Dastyari was forced to quit politics amid allegations that he informed Mr Huang about monitoring by western intelligence agencies and that his office took cash from the billionaire to pay legal bills.

Millions more went to Australian political parties of all stripes.

David Harding

David Harding, founder of hedge fund firm Winton Group, donated £100 million (Dh476m) to the University of Cambridge, the biggest single private gift to a UK college from a British philanthropist.

More than three-quarters of the money from Mr Harding and his wife will provide full scholarships for about 100 distinguished doctoral students, the university said in a statement. The rest will support undergraduate students at Britain’s second-oldest university.

“Claudia and I are very happy to make this gift to Cambridge to help to attract future generations of the world’s outstanding students to research and study there,” Mr Harding, 57, said in the statement.

The gift is a significant sum for UK philanthropy, representing more than 10 per cent of new money that universities across the country raised in the 2016-17 academic year. And it comes as the UK’s pending divorce from the European Union threatens funding for academic institutions. The nation’s universities collectively received £767m pounds a year on average from 2007 to 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Mr Harding, who previously gave £20m to Cambridge’s physics department, graduated from the school in 1982, and founded his investment powerhouse more than a decade later. Assets at Mr Harding’s London-based Winton Group plunged by about $5 billion (Dh18.4bn) last year to $23.6bn as it shifted strategy and investors lost patience with computer-driven hedge funds.

Oxford and Cambridge are among the world’s best-funded academic institutions, with endowments exceeding more than £6bn combined. But Cambridge still has more distinguished Ph.D applicants than it can currently fund, the university said in the statement.

The co-founder of Flipkart, Binny Bansal, is now dedicating himself to helping other start-up ventures. Photo: AFP
The co-founder of Flipkart, Binny Bansal, is now dedicating himself to helping other start-up ventures. Photo: AFP

Binny Bansal

Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal has broken his silence after his shock resignation less than three months ago. The entrepreneur once celebrated for jump-starting India’s internet retail industry is now dedicating himself to helping other founders get their start-ups off the ground.

Mr Bansal founded the e-commerce giant over a decade ago, but Walmart became a majority stake holder in May of last year. In November, Mr Bansal resigned as chief executive of Flipkart Group after Walmart investigated alleged personal misconduct.

Mr Bansal is now focused on xto10x Technologies, a start-up he cofounded with former colleague Saikiran Krishnamurthy. It’s aimed at helping entrepreneurs navigate the often-tricky Indian start-up scene. Bansal’s already put together an early team, set up an office at a co-working space and even snagged several “leading” start-up customers.

“I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life,” the 37-year-old said in his first interview since the episode. “Person to person, I can help 10 start-ups but the ambition is to help 10,000 early and mid-stage entrepreneurs, not 10,” he said.

While Mr Bansal was his usual loquacious self, he mostly clammed up when the topic of his 2018 departure came up. Walmart was said to have begun an inquiry into a consensual relationship Bansal had with a woman. The probe looked into claims that the woman had been paid off, possibly in return for her silence, Bloomberg reported at the time.

Bansal, who still holds 4 per cent of Flipkart and a board seat, has since kept a low profile. During the interview, he quelled attempts to discuss the woman’s identity or investigation findings, all which have been the subject of intense speculation. There’s also the matter of a reported falling-out with co-founder Sachin Bansal (no relation) — to the point they’re no longer on speaking terms. Mr Bansal determinedly put a lid on it all: “Now, it’s all in the past. I have moved on.”

Updated: February 9, 2019 01:21 PM

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