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Democratic megadonor Haim Saban thinks fellow billionaire Howard Schultz would guarantee Trump a second term if he ran as an independent

Key Points
  • Democratic billionaire and megadonor Haim Saban criticized former Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz for signaling that he would run for president as an independent candidate.
  • Saban also told CNBC that if Schultz ran as a Democrat, he would be a contender to win the party's nomination for the 2020 presidential election.
  • Saban, who has given millions to Democratic causes and candidates, would not rule out backing Schultz if he ran in the Democratic field.
Self-made billionaire Haim Saban 
JOERG KOCH | DDP | Getty Images

Democratic megadonor and Israeli-American media titan Haim Saban is the latest big money party supporter who believes that Howard Schultz, if he runs as an independent in 2020, will help President Donald Trump win a second term.

In a statement provided by Saban's media team, the billionaire executive offered his thoughts on the former Starbucks chairman and CEO considering an independent run and what it could mean for the party Saban has supported for more than a decade.

"I don't discount Howard's ability to beat the odds. However, [it's] very hard to borderline impossible to win the presidency as an independent," Saban said. "He guarantees Trump a second term."

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Schultz caused some early turmoil in the 2020 race when he told the CBS program "60 Minutes," in an interview that aired Sunday night, that he was seriously considering running for president as a "centrist independent."

The former Starbucks chief is a self-proclaimed lifelong Democrat. And Saban, the mogul behind such properties as the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," noted that if Schultz ran as a Democrat, he would be a strong contender to capture the party's nomination for the 2020 presidential election.

Schultz would have "as good a chance as the other 41 who are either running or considering to do so," Saban said when asked about whether the former coffee executive could win as a Democrat. "He's a very smart and good man who's heart is in the right place but his plan as an independent is the wrong one," Saban added.

Saban, who led an investor group that bought Spanish-language media company Univision over a decade ago, did not rule out supporting Schultz if he decided to run as a Democrat. He did say, however, that it's "too early" for him to decide whom he will back in 2020.

"Lots of great candidates running or considering, but simply too early in the process to support anyone at this point," Saban said.

The comments by Saban come as Democratic donors in New York, including on Wall Street, are criticizing Schultz for potentially splitting voters, which could lead to Trump being re-elected in 2020. Democrats on social media have called for Schultz to reverse course and have threatened to boycott Starbucks if he jumps into the next presidential election.

In an interview with CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin on Monday night during the first stop of his book tour in New York, Schultz responded to criticism from party leaders and progressive groups who have called for him to reconsider an independent run.

"Listen, I'm not running a primary race on Twitter, but I expected there would be a lot of anger and hate and that's the problem. There's so much toxicity in our political system. I wasn't surprised," Schultz said.

Later, Schultz told Sorkin that he doesn't believe voters want a 70 percent tax rate on the wealthiest Americans, a thinly veiled criticism of a proposal by left-wing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. Polls have shown that voters generally approve of the idea of taxing the wealthy at a higher rate.

A spokeswoman for Schultz did not return a request for comment.

Saban's take on Schultz's potential independent run is potentially a significant blow to the former Starbucks CEO. Schultz will need donors to help him fund a campaign, particularly if he does not intend to fully self-fund his operation. Schultz has a net worth of $3.4 billion, according to Forbes.

Saban historically has been a difference maker for Democrats running for office. With a net worth of $2.8 billion, according to Forbes, the television, movie and music producer spent $3.3 million on Democratic Party causes during the 2018 congressional midterm elections. That figure included a $2 million contribution to the Senate Majority PAC, a group dedicated to helping Democrats get elected to the U.S. Senate, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

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Saban, who founded the media investment firm Saban Capital Group, also backed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton when they both ran for president.

In 2012, he contributed directly to Obama's campaign while giving just more than $333,000 to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC that supported the president's re-election efforts. In 2016, the super PAC supported Clinton's run for the White House. Saban wrote several checks to the organization that year for just more than $5 million.