Politics

SPAC with ties to Biden Cabinet picks sees surge in support from Wall Street after offering 'access'

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Key Points
  • Pine Island's team includes Tony Blinken, Biden's choice to be secretary of State, and retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, nominated to be secretary of Defense.
  • Since the initial pitch, the SPAC has raised over $218 million. Records from November indicate that at least two major Wall Street players took ownership stakes.
  • The SPAC proposal pitched unique access and insight into the federal government.
Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken speaks after being introduced by President-elect Joe Biden as he introduces key foreign policy and national security nominees and appointments at the Queen Theatre on November 24, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.
Mark Makela | Getty Images

A company with ties to at least two people selected by Joe Biden for his Cabinet is seeing a surge in support from Wall Street players after pitching access to investors.

Pine Island Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company, was first described in September to investors in a prospectus featuring its direct affiliation with the investment firm, Pine Island Capital Partners. The document was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission as Biden surged in the polls ahead of President Donald Trump.

"We believe that with our access, network and expertise, we are well-suited to take advantage of the current and future opportunities present in the aerospace, defense and government services industries," the SEC filing said at the time.

Pine Island's team includes Tony Blinken, Biden's choice to be secretary of State, and Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin, his nominee for Defense secretary. Austin was listed on the original SPAC proposal, while Blinken was left off as he took a leave of absence from the firm when he joined the Biden campaign.

Since the initial pitch, the SPAC has raised over $218 million. Records from November indicate that at least two big Wall Street players took ownership stakes in it.

The SEC filings show that the investment arm of Citadel, whose CEO is Ken Griffin, took a nearly 7% ownership stake. Millennium Management, founded by longtime business executive Israel Englander, took a more than 5% stake. Each firm purchased millions of shares, with the SPAC's asking price of up to $10 per share.

Citadel Advisors, which is the hedge fund business of Citadel and is listed on the document that made the Pine Island purchase, reportedly has at least $30 billion in assets under management. Millennium says on its website that it has over $48 billion in assets under management.

The Citadel and Millennium investments were made before Blinken and Austin were officially chosen for Cabinet roles. The Biden transition team has said the two men plan to divest any stake in Pine Island if they are confirmed by the Senate.

A SPAC is a shell company with no actual commercial operations and is often created solely for raising capital to help a company go public without going through the traditional IPO process. Because SPACs have no previous operations or financial data to access, their track record depends on the reputation of the management teams. 

The creation of the Pine Island SPAC was first reported by The Daily Poster and The New York Times.

The firms would not say why they chose to buy into this SPAC after investing in similar ventures over the years. Pine Island, Citadel and Millennium declined to comment for this story. A Biden transition spokesperson did not return a request for comment.

One of the apparent appealing concepts about Pine Island is its team members, who include experienced financial and governmental leaders. Its chairman is John Thain, CEO of Merrill Lynch before its merger with Bank of America. He also was once the chief executive of CIT Group.

Pine Island Capital Partners' managing partner is Phil Cooper, a former Goldman Sachs executive and CEO of the SPAC.

The D.C. side is promoted on Pine Island's website as having influence and the contacts necessary to strike deals.

"Capitalizing on their influential networks and drawing on their deep industry knowledge and experience, Pine Island's Washington, D.C. partners work in tandem with the investment team to source deals, conduct analyses, win bids, close transactions, and directly advise the companies in which we invest," the Pine Island Capital Partners website says.

Beyond Blinken and Austin, the website lists others who have ties to Biden and the leadership of the Democratic Party. There are also D.C. partners with links to the Republican Party.

Michele Flournoy, who was reportedly being considered to be Biden's choice for secretary of Defense and was undersecretary of Defense for policy under President Barack Obama, is listed as one of the D.C. partners. Capricia Marshall, who has ties to the Obama administration, along with Bill and Hillary Clinton, is also a partner.

Former Democratic House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt is also a partner.

The firm's portfolio includes Precinmac and InVeris, two companies with ties to the aerospace and defense industries.

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