SPAC: Investor Chamath Makes Bank From SoFi Market Debut

Chamath Palihapitiya

Chamath Palihapitiya is a name that rings bells in the world of special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). That’s because he’s like the biggest SPAC promoter out there and has participated in over a dozen SPAC deals. Personally, he’s launched six SPACs on the public markets.

  • One of Chamath’s SPACs just completed a merger with fintech company SoFi and the merger was a successful one that saw SoFi’s shares rise by over 10% on the first day of trading. That merger delivered a windfall for Chamath worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • Precisely, Chamath’s personal stake in SoFi is north of 33 million shares, according to an SEC filing. With SoFi closing up trading on Tuesday at $22.65, those shares are worth about $750mn.
  • Chamath’s personal shares in SoFi were gained as part of the shares usually granted to SPAC sponsors like him. Such sponsor shares, typically 20% of common stock, have proved lucrative for SPAC promoters like Chamath who don’t even have to put up much financial risk to get them.
  • SoFi is now trading at a valuation of nearly $9bn, over double its last private valuation of $4.3bn before its market debut.
  • As one of the major faces of the SPAC frenzy, Chamath has taken a lot of heat stemming from criticism of SPACs. The criticisms have centered on the favorable terms that sponsors extract from their SPACs, typically 20% of common equity, just for their efforts in finding merger targets and without any personal financial risk on their part.
  • Also, SPACs have faced criticism over being a medium to take bogus companies public and dump them on retail investors who likely lose out in the end. For example, Chamath’s six SPACs have on average plunged more than the broader SPAC markets, but he still comes out on top anyways due to the sponsor shares he receives from deals while smaller retail investors are left holding the bag.
  • Chamath has taken four companies public – Virgin Galactic, Opendoor, Clover Health, and now SoFi in chronological order. Rumors have it that his fifth target is high-end gym chain Equinox.
  • In the SPAC frenzy, Chamath has been one of the biggest beneficiaries to the tune of a $1bn fortune as estimated by Forbes.

Photo credit: Max Morse for TechCrunch, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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