Peter Ackerman

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Peter Ackerman
Peter Ackerman.png
Born(1946-11-06)November 6, 1946
DiedApril 26, 2022(2022-04-26) (aged 75)
Alma materColgate University (BA)
Tufts University (MS, MALD, PhD)
Years active1973-2022
EmployerRockport Capital
Board member ofCouncil on Foreign Relations Atlantic Council
SpouseJoanne Leedom-Ackerman
ChildrenElliot Ackerman, Nate Ackerman

Peter Ackerman (November 6, 1946 – April 26, 2022) was an American businessman, the founder and former chairman of Americans Elect, and the founding chair of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.[1] Ackerman was the managing director of Rockport Capital, Inc and served as a member of IREX’s Global Advisory Council.[2]

Early life[edit]

Peter Ackerman was born in New York City, New York. He received his undergraduate degree in political science from Colgate University.[3] After graduating from Colgate, he attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University where he earned a Ph.D. in 1976 in International Relations.[3] While at Tufts, he studied under Gene Sharp and Robert Pfaltzgraff.[4] Ackerman's thesis, Strategic Aspects of Nonviolent Resistance Movements, examined the nonviolent strategy and tactics used by people who are living under oppression and have no viable military option to free themselves.[5]

Dispute resolution career[edit]

In 1983 Ackerman helped to fund the Albert Einstein Institution, founded by his former PhD supervisor Gene Sharp.[6] AEI is a non-profit organization specializing in the study of the methods of nonviolent resistance in conflict[7] (according to Bloomberg News, "advises pro-democracy activists on how to topple dictators via protests and mock elections"[8]).

In 1989 Ackerman consulted with student protesters from China following the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre.[9] In 1990 he moved to London, where he was a visiting scholar at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. During this time he co-authored the book Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of People Power in the Twentieth Century with Christopher Kruegler.[10]

Ackerman was also a series editor and principal content advisor in the television version of Steve York's 1999 Emmy-nominated film A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict, which charts the history of civilian-based resistance in the 20th century. He co-authored with Jack DuVall a book of the same title. In 2002, Ackerman was the Executive Producer of the PBS documentary Bringing Down A Dictator, which chronicled the fall of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic by nonviolent means.[11] The documentary, produced and directed by Steve York, received a 2003 Peabody Award and was the recipient of the 2002 ABC News VideoSource Award of the International Documentary Association.[12] Eli J. Lake stated that Ackerman's book was one of the blueprints used by the Otpor movement that overthrew Miloslevic.[9]

According to Bloomberg,

"In 2005, he co-wrote a study showing that non-violent action had been instrumental in 50 of 67 transitions to democracy since 1972, including in Chile, the Philippines and Poland. He has funded workshops for dissidents from Central Asia, Iran, Iraq and North Korea ... Ackerman also funded the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies, which was started in 2003 by student leaders who’d helped bring down Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic three years earlier. Some members of Egypt’s April 6 movement, which toppled President Hosni Mubarak, took civil resistance training from Canvas organizers in Belgrade."[13]

Ackerman was a founding chair of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict in 2002.[9] Around 2004, Ackerman, until then one of the major donors of the Albert Einstein Institution, withdrew his funding, and Sharp was forced to run the organization out of his home in Boston.[6]

In 2005 Ackerman became a director of the Institute for Strategic Studies' IISS-US office.[11]

Business career[edit]

In 1973, Ackerman joined the investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert.[5] From 1978 to 1990, Ackerman was Director of International Capital Markets Drexel until the company filed for bankruptcy.[14] While at Drexel, Ackerman made more than $300 million working alongside 'Junk Bond King' Michael Milken, raising billions of dollars for junk-bond-fueled takeovers.[15] In 1988 he received the second-highest take-home salary in Wall Street history, receiving $165 million.[5] Criminal charges were never brought against Ackerman in Drexel's insider trading scandal. He publicly denounced the treatment of Milken and other leaders at Drexel by the firm once the government began to investigate them.[16] Ackerman subsequently paid a $73 million settlement in a civil case brought against him by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Resolution Trust Corporation.[17][18]

After leaving Drexel, Ackerman founded several other companies, including Safari Acquisition. One of Safari's attempted acquisitions was its 1996 bid for control of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.[3][19] His main investment firms include Rockport Capital Inc. and Crown Capital.[5][20] In 2002 Ackerman co-founded the online grocery service FreshDirect.[21]

Ackerman was a member of the board of the Atlantic Council,[22] and the Council on Foreign Relations. He was the chair emeritus of the board of advisors of The Fletcher School at Tufts University, his alma mater, and was the former chair of the board of trustees of Freedom House, serving there from September 2005 until January 2009.[1][23][24]

Political activities[edit]

In 2008, Ackerman sat on the board for Unity08, an organization intended to fund third-party candidates.[25] In October 2012 Ackerman, along with New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and Passport Capital founder John Burbank, funded the purchase of $1.75 million in independent political advertising, in the name of Ackerman's tax-exempt Americans Elect organization, to support the Senate campaign of Maine governor Angus King.[26] Ackerman contributed the initial $5 million seed money to Americans Elect,[27] a 2012 third-party Presidential nomination initiative,[28] and served as chairman of its board of directors.[29] Ackerman's son, Elliot, serves as Chief Operating Officer of Americans Elect.[29] On May 17, 2012 Americans Elect, unable to mount a successful primary ballot, announced that "The primary process for the Americans Elect nomination has come to an end."[30]


Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili accused Peter Ackerman of working with the Georgian opposition to overthrow the Government of Georgia.[31]

Courtroom issues[edit]

In 2003 Ackerman sued the California Franchise Tax Board to recover $5 million in taxes previously paid. He lost the case on appeal. In 2005 a bill was introduced in the California legislature, which was noted by a Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee analysis to appear to solely benefit Ackerman at a potential cost of $5 million to the state. That year the United States Tax Court ruled that Ackerman was involved in an illegal $1.7 billion tax shelter; the IRS determined that Ackerman owed $150 million in taxes. This case was resolved in June 2011 in an undisclosed settlement. Another tax court ruling in 2009 found that he owed an additional $2.6 million.[17]


Ackerman died on April 26, 2022.[32][33]


  1. ^ a b "Peter Ackerman - Founding Chair". International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. 2009. Archived from the original on 2010-11-30. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
  2. ^ IREX mourns loss of global council member Peter Ackerman, IREX, 28 April 2022.
  3. ^ a b c "Peter Ackerman LinkedIn". LinkedIn. Retrieved 2014-08-16. Owner Rockport/Crown Capital January 1991 – Present (23 years 8 months); Tufts University - The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Ph.D., International Relations 1975 – 1976; Colgate University 1971 – 1974
  4. ^ "Fletcher Students and Alumni Convene in DC for Annual Career Trip". The Fletcher School. completed his doctoral dissertation, Strategic Aspects of Nonviolent Resistance Movements, under Professor Pfaltzgraff and Gene Sharp while at Fletcher
  5. ^ a b c d Luke McKenna (January 6, 2012). "The Fabulous Life Of Secretive Investor, Peter Ackerman". Business Insider, Inc. New York, NY. Ackerman was born in New York and graduated with a degree in political science at Colgate University. He also holds three advanced degrees from Tufts University's Fletcher School in Boston, where he wrote his thesis on Mahatma Gandhi, and how his passive resistance movement helped India win independence from England.
  6. ^ a b Flintoff, John-Paul (3 January 2013). "Gene Sharp: The Machiavelli of non-violence". New Statesman. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  7. ^ The First Five Years: 1983–1988 and Plans for the Future: President's report (PDF) (Report). The Albert Einstein Institution. 1988. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  8. ^ Kambiz Foroohar (January 4, 2012). "Internet Picks Presidential Candidate If Ackerman Gets His Way". Bloomberg. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c Eli J. Lake (September 1, 2003). "The New Velvet Revolutionaries: Agitating for Kinder, Gentler Regime Change". The Washington Monthly. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  10. ^ "Social Security Choice - Project Board". Cato Institute. Archived from the original on June 8, 2003.
  11. ^ a b "2005 Spring newsletter". IISS. The current Directors are now: Dr Peter Ackerman, Ambassador Richard Burt, Dr John Chipman, Michael Draeger
  12. ^ "Peter Ackerman". Retrieved May 22, 2014.
  13. ^ "Internet Picks Presidential Candidate If Ackerman Gets His Way". Bloomberg. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
  14. ^ "Executive Profile - Peter Ackerman Ph.D." Business Week.[dead link]
  15. ^ "Internet Picks Presidential Candidate If Ackerman Gets His Way". Bloomberg.
  16. ^ "Unfinished business. (Drexel Burnham Lambert)". The Economist. January 14, 1989. Archived from the original on September 21, 2014. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  17. ^ a b "Founder of Americans Elect Used Tax Shelter Scheme". California Watch.
  18. ^ Robert J. McCartne and Susan Schmidt (March 7, 1992). "FDIC Fears of Leniency for Milken Brother Delay Accord". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on April 9, 2016. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  19. ^ "BIZWATCH : MARKETS". Daily News. June 25, 1996. Archived from the original on September 21, 2014. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  20. ^ Steve Mistler (January 21, 2014). "State House Notebook: Will Americans Elect be a savior for Cutler? ; Campaign finance disclosures reveal connections that suggest the independent candidate could get a boost from the well-heeled group". Portland Press Herald. Archived from the original on April 23, 2014. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  21. ^ Rebecca Robinson (November 10, 2011). "THE CLICKSTER PARTY". Monterey County Weekly. Archived from the original on September 21, 2014. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  22. ^ "Board of Directors". Atlantic Council. Retrieved 2020-02-11.
  23. ^ "Dr. Peter Ackerman Becomes New Chairman of Freedom House". Freedom House. 2005-09-08. Archived from the original on 2010-12-14. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
  24. ^ "Freedom House Welcomes William H. Taft IV as New Chairman". Freedom House. 2009-01-08. Archived from the original on 2010-12-14. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
  25. ^ Chris Cillizza (July 25, 2011). "Anger at Washington revives third-party push". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 17, 2018. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  26. ^ "Bloomberg among Americans Elect funders in Maine". Politico.
  27. ^ "New group paves way for alternative 2012 choice". CNN. 29 December 2011. Funding for the effort was kicked off with over $5 million from investment banker Peter Ackerman.
  28. ^ "Americans Elect and the death of the third party movement". Washington Post.
  29. ^ a b "Who We Are". Americans Elect. Archived from the original on 2012-07-17. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  30. ^ "A Statement From Americans Elect". Americans Elect.
  31. ^ "Georgian PM Garibashvili: "We do not want war, even if it is the price of joining the EU"". 14 June 2022.
  32. ^ "Peter Ackerman's legacy: Tackling the world's toughest conflicts". Atlantic Council. 2022-04-29. Retrieved 2022-05-28.
  33. ^ "Peter Ackerman, Founder of Americans Elect, Dies at Age 75 | Ballot Access News". Retrieved 2022-05-28.

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