Colin Kaepernick’s SPAC, which raised $345 million when it went public in March with the goal of raising money to acquire a socially conscious company, has hit a speedbump. An investment deal fell through to buy a company over the activist-entrepreneur’s reluctance to promote the acquisition in the media.
SPACs, or special-purpose acquisition companies, are also known as “blank check companies” that have no commercial operations. They are formed strictly to raise capital through an initial public offering (IPO) for the purpose of acquiring or merging with an existing company that they take public.
In 2020, 247 SPACs were created with $80 billion invested. By comparison, in the first quarter of 2021 alone, 295 newly formed SPACs raised a record $96 billion.
Mission Advancement, the name of Kaepernick’s SPAC, targeted a socially-driven billion-dollar company for acquisition. It settled on The Change Co., a California lender that focuses on minority borrowers underserved by traditional banks.
Kaepernick is co-chairman of Mission Advancement along with Jahm Najafi, a minority owner in the NBA’s Phoenix Suns who runs a private-equity fund.
It was “a snug fit with the former National Football League star’s social-justice activism,” Liz Hoffman and Andrew Beaton wrote for the Wall Street Journal.
However, Kaepernick denied requests from Change Co. executives to appear on “Good Morning America” with George Stephanopoulos and other in interviews as part of the rollout, the Wall Street Journal reported citing an internal document. The deal is now dead, according to WSJ sources.
Celebrity names have been linked to dozens of SPACS including Jay-Z, Shaquille O’Neill, Martha Stewart, and former pro baseballer player Alex Rodriguez. SPACs pitch investors on their star power, contacts that they say will help the company succeed, and their social-media following. However, that’s no guarantee that celebrity SPACs will result in happy returns. Of 33 SPACs tied to famous public figures tracked by Bloomberg, 21 posted negative returns for 2021.
Earlier in December, Securities and Exchange Commission head Gary Gensler criticized SPACs, warning against “misleading hype” and calling attention to the downside of celebrity endorsements.
“It is never a good idea to invest in a SPAC just because someone famous sponsors or invests in it or says it is a good investment,” the SEC in a March bulletin. “Celebrities, like anyone else, can be lured into participating in a risky investment or may be better able to sustain the risk of loss.”
A spokesman for Kaepernick’s Mission Advancement Corp. MACC said that the company operates “with the highest ethical standards” and will “continue our work while we look for a great fit to merge with in 2022.”
The Change Company CEO Steven Sugarman praised Kaepernick’s commitment to racial justice and said in a statement he’d be proud to consider a partnership “yesterday, today, or tomorrow.”
Kaepernick launched a movement in 2016 after the former San Francisco 49ers player kneeled in protest during the national anthem against police brutality and systemic racism. Kaepernick hasn’t played for the NFL since and remains unsigned. The movement raised awareness and scrutiny into NFL practices and Kaepernick later settled a multimillion-dollar grievance with the league that alleged collusion to keep him unsigned for his political views.
Kaepernick rarely grants interviews and has never spoken about the protests that led to his unsigned status in an interview such as “Good Morning America,” WSJ reported. Instead, he honed his image in scripted appearances and social-justice initiatives such as a Nike ad campaign and a six-part documentary, “Colin In Black And White,” released on Netflix in 2021.
By the time the deal fell apart, Mission had commitments for about two-thirds of the $100 million it was targeting, mostly from real-estate investment firms Angelo Gordon and MFA Financial Inc., people familiar with the matter told WSJ. Kaepernick and Najafi, the sponsor group, were expected to contribute $10 million.
Others who agreed to invest included actor Tyler Perry, WNBA stars Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore, music producer J. Cole, and hip-hop artists Quavo and Nas, according to the documents. “But the commitments weren’t large, and some of the celebrity investors expected to be paid for any promotional efforts,” WSJ reported.
Those who said no to Kaepernick’s SPAC included BlackRock Inc., Fidelity Investments and T. Rowe Price Group Inc. — some of the most active SPAC investors, WSJ reported — as well as Oprah Winfrey’s money manager and Serena Williams’s venture fund. Those who did not commit included Netflix, Nike and venture firm Andreesen Horowitz, whose co-founder is listed as an adviser on Mission’s website.
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