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Billionaire Trump supporter sells stake in Breitbart and singles out Milo Yiannopolous for attack

'I was mistaken to have supported him,' Robert Mercer writes of Yiannopolous

Emily Shugerman
New York
Thursday 02 November 2017 19:16 GMT
Milo Yiannopoulos pauses while speaking outside the offices of Simon & Schuster publishing company
Milo Yiannopoulos pauses while speaking outside the offices of Simon & Schuster publishing company (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Billionaire Trump supporter Robert Mercer has stepped down from his massive hedge fund and sold his stake in Breitbart News, slamming right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos in the process.

In a letter to employees, Mr Mercer announced that he was stepping down as co-chief executive of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund that manages more than $50bn in assets. He also announced that he would sell his $10m stake in Breitbart News – the controversial right-wing news site where Mr Yiannopoulos got his start.

Mr Mercer did not give a reason for resigning, and said he was selling his stake in Breitbart for “personal reasons”. But he also expanded on his feelings toward Mr Yiannopoulos – and toward Breitbart executive chairman Steve Bannon.

“I have great respect for Mr. Bannon, and from time to time I do discuss politics with him,” he wrote. “However, I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically. Those decisions do not always align with Mr. Bannon's.”

The Mercer family collaborated on at least five ventures with Mr Bannon between 2011 and 2016, according to the Washington Post. These ventures included Cambridge Analytica, a data science company that did work for the Trump campaign, and “Clinton Cash,” a documentary about Hillary Clinton’s foreign entanglements.

Mr Mercer saved his most intense criticism for Mr Yiannopoulos, who previously worked as Breitbart’s tech editor. A recent BuzzFeed expose brought renewed criticism to Mr Yiannopoulos, detailing the ways in which he used Breitbart as a rallying point for the so-called “alt-right".

Mr Mercer previously helped fund Mr Yiannopoulos’s college speaking tour via his political PAC. In his letter, Mr Mercer said he had supported the professional provocateur in hopes of promoting “the type of open debate and freedom of thought that is being throttled on many American college campuses today.”

But now, he wrote, “my opinion, actions of and statements by Mr. Yiannopoulos have caused pain and divisiveness undermining the open and productive discourse that I had hoped to facilitate”.

He added: “I was mistaken to have supported him, and for several weeks have been in the process of severing all ties with him."

Mr Mercer will sell his stake in Breitbart News to his daughters, including Rebekah Mercer, a major Republican donor who served on the executive committee of the Trump transition team. He will leave his post at Renaissance Technologies at the beginning of next year, but will remain active in the fund’s research arm.

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