Blue Haven InitiativePosted 5 years ago under Bias
The Blue Haven Initiative is an investment firm founded in July 2, 2012 by Liesel Pritzker Simmons and her husband Ian Simmons. This family office aims to make investments that don’t just generate financial return but also have social and environmental impact. The company boasts a diverse portfolio of investments in various asset classes, from traditional equities to groundbreaking new companies to philanthropic programs.
Liesel Pritzker Simmons’ family background
Liesel Pritzker Simmons, who serves as principal of the Blue Haven Initiative, belongs to one of the wealthiest families in the U.S. Her family’s fortune has been around for more than a century and it is estimated at more than $15 billion. This comes from their many assets including the 209-hotel Hyatt management chain, commercial real estate, and industrial businesses. They also have a 25 percent stake in the Royal Caribbean cruises. However, the Pritzker family did not amass this massive fortune without controversy.
During the recession, the Pritzker family was accused of mistreating their workers and preventing them from forming unions. Hyatt, which the family manages, also did not cooperate with efforts by the Unite Here union to secure a raise for the hotel chain’s workers. This caused their workers to come together in mass protests against the family, which led an infamous incident where the Pritzkers turned heat lamps on protesting workers during a heat wave.
In the process of splitting these assets among their family, many disputes and secrets between its members were revealed. It was during this time that Liesel, along with her brother Matthew, filed a lawsuit against their father and other relatives for stripping her trust fund of more than $1 billion when she was still a child. Liesel claimed that this resulted from the legal dispute between her parents in the mid-1990s, when the two were already divorced. The Pritzker family failed to have this suit thrown out, which led to a settlement where Liesel and Matthew gained approximately $280 million each. This made Liesel one of the wealthiest women in the U.S., with her fortune amounting to $450 million.
Using this fortune, Liesel established the IDP Foundation with her mother Irene Pritzker. This non-profit organization aims to solve global issues by increasing access to primary education. To do this, they came up with the IDP Rising Schools Program, which has led to the establishment and management of almost 450 low-cost private schools in poorly developed regions in the world.
Liesel and her husband Ian also used this money founded the Blue Haven Initiative, which became one of the first family offices to focus on impact investing. In their company, she serves as an investment strategist who makes sure that their portfolio has holdings that generate financial returns and address social and environmental problems.
The company’s funding strategy
Since its foundation, Blue Haven Initiative has made 15 investments in companies like Pivot Works, PaxVax, M-KOPA, Umati Capital, PEG, and Twiga Foods. To help their company maintain its profile, Blue Haven Initiative classifies funding opportunities into three main categories, namely impact investing and field building, human capital, and catalytic investments.
The impact investing and field building category focuses on organizations that are building communities, conducting research, and developing tools that would help impact investors. Meanwhile, human capital funding opportunities are for the organizations that aim to provide early-stage companies in the Sub Saharan Africa region with the employees that they need to function at their maximum potential. Lastly, catalytic investments involve companies with innovations that are still in the proof-of-concept phase.
As part of the company’s initiatives, they can give out grants and investments of up to $500,000 per year. Meanwhile, the company’s venture investments can range from $500,000 to $1 million in a year, which can grow up to $10 million over time.
Blue Haven Initiative’s involvement with NewsGuard
NewsGuard is one of Blue Haven Initiative’s most recent investments and also one of its most controversial ones. The company, which was founded by Steven Brill and Louis Gordon Crovitz in 2018, is a news rating agency that claims to fight fake news through “old school journalism.” It uses a color-coded system that indicates the credibility of a website. A “trustworthy” website is given a green rating while one that publishes “fake news” is given a red rating. Overall, the agency wants to provide credibility ratings for a total of 7,500 commonly used news and information websites.
Although NewsGuard’s efforts may seem valiant, many people are doubting the company’s intentions, especially since it has been observed to give ratings that some websites do not deserve. Some of the websites that it has included in its blacklist for providing “fake news” include Breitbart News, the Daily Mail, the Drudge Report, MintPress News, and RT. Meanwhile, it has given green ratings to websites like CNN and The Washington Post, which have been proven to publish fake news. NewsGuard also considers the U.S. state-funded Voice of America, even if its former associate director himself has accused it of producing “fluff journalism.” Additionally, this media outlet has recently been reformed to work more like a propaganda device by providing news that supports “national security objectives.”
The bias that NewsGuard exhibits comes from the company’s close ties with the U.S. government, neoconservatives, and powerful moneyed interests. Crovitz, one of the company’s CEOs, is not someone that should be trusted when it comes to restoring trust in journalism since he has been accused of presenting false information on numerous occasions. Moreover, he has been associated with the neoconservative think tanks the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Heritage Foundation, both of which have been very supportive of the War on Terror.
Crovitz and Brill are the two leading investors in the company, followed by the Publicis Groupe, one of the biggest communications company in the world. This company has received a lot of criticism for its involvement in the “whitewashing” of Saudi Arabia’s image, since its government is one of its top clients. The involvement of this company in NewsGuard is also something to be wary about since websites that provide accurate news could be given low ratings if their content generates bad publicity for the Publicis Groupe’s clients, as well as for the other investors behind NewsGuard. Another top investor in the company is John McCarter who is an advisory board member of the Atlantic Council, a think tank that has been put in charge of media censorship on Facebook.
For a news rating agency that claims to be non-partisan, NewsGuard’s team seems to lean toward the neoconservative side, which casts further doubt on the company’s intentions. Prominent members of its advisory board include Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of Homeland Security; former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) Retired General Michael Hayden; PSB chairman Don Baer; John Battelle, who is the co-founder of Wired; and NBC News political analyst Elise Jordan. The advisory board also includes self-proclaimed “chief propagandist” Richard Stengel, who has been called out for making factual errors and inaccurate statements, as well as Jessica Lessin who has been accused of unethical journalism after defending Facebook from calls that it should “fact-check the news as a way of combating fake stories,” without disclosing her connections to its CEO.