Robert Mercer (businessman)

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Robert Mercer
Born Robert Leroy Mercer
(1946-07-11) July 11, 1946 (age 70)
San Jose, California, U.S.
Residence Head of the Harbor, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater University of New Mexico
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Occupation Hedge fund manager
Employer Renaissance Technologies
Spouse(s) Diana Lynne (Dean) Mercer[1]
Children Rebekah, Jennifer, Heather Sue

Robert Leroy Mercer (born July 11, 1946),[2] better known as Bob Mercer, is an American computer scientist, a developer in early artificial intelligence, and co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, a successful hedge fund.[3][2] He is a major donor to conservative political causes such as Breitbart News[4]

He is the principal benefactor of the Make America Number 1 Super PAC.[5] Mercer was a major supporter of Donald Trump's 2016 campaign for president[6] and Brexit in the United Kingdom.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Mercer grew up in New Mexico. He developed an early interest in computers and in 1964 attended a National Youth Science Camp in West Virginia where he learned to program a donated IBM computer.[8] He went on to get a bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics from the University of New Mexico.[2] While working on his degree he had a job at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base writing programs where, though he felt he produced good work, he felt it was not optimized. The experience "left me ever since with a jaundiced view of government-financed research," he said.[8] He earned a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in 1972.[2]


Mercer joined IBM Research in the fall of 1972, after completing his PhD. Based at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown (NY) he helped develop Brown Clustering, a statistical machine translation technique as part of a speech recognition and translation research program led by Frederick Jelinek and Lalit Bahl.[9][10] In June 2014, Mercer received the Association for Computational Linguistics Lifetime Achievement Award for this work.[11]

In 1993, Mercer joined hedge fund Renaissance Technologies after being recruited by executive Nick Patterson.[10][12] The founder of Renaissance, James Harris Simons, a pioneering quant, preferred to hire mathematicians (like himself), computer scientists, and physicists rather than business school students or financial analysts.[9][13][14] Mercer and a former colleague from IBM, Peter Brown, became co-CEOs of Renaissance when Simons retired in 2009.[10] Renaissance's main fund, Medallion, earned 39 percent per year on average between 1989 and 2006.[4] As of 2014, Renaissance manages $25 billion in assets.[2]

Political activities[edit]

In 2015, the Washington Post called Mercer one of the ten most influential billionaires in politics.[15] Since 2006, Mercer has donated about $34.9 million to federal campaigns.[16]

Mercer has given $750,000 to the Club for Growth, $2 million to American Crossroads,[17] and $2.5 million to Freedom Partners Action Fund.[18] In 2010, Mercer financially supported Art Robinson's efforts to unseat Peter DeFazio in Oregon's 4th congressional district.[19] In the 2013-2014 election cycle, Mercer donated the fourth largest amount of money among individual donors, and the second most among Republican donors.[2] Mercer joined the Koch brothers conservative political donor network after the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC, but Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer, decided to establish their own political foundation.[20] The Mercer Family Foundation, run by Rebekah, has donated to a variety of conservative causes.[2] Rebekah was one of the members of Donald Trump's Presidential Transition Team Executive Committee.[12]

Mercer has donated to the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Media Research Center, Reclaim New York and GAI.[21][8] In 2013, Mercer was shown data by former Jimmy Carter pollster Patrick Caddell, who has been critical of top Democrats, and commissioned more research from Caddell that showed "voters were becoming alienated from both political parties and mainstream candidates".[8] Mercer was the main financial backer of the Jackson Hole Summit, a conference that took place in Wyoming in August 2015 to advocate for the gold standard.[4] He has also supported Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, Fred Kelly Grant (an Idaho activist who encourages legal challenges to environmental laws), a campaign for the death penalty in Nebraska and funded ads in New York critical of the so-called "ground-zero mosque".[4] According to associates interviewed by Bloomberg, Mercer is concerned with the monetary and banking systems of the United States, which he believes are in danger from government meddling.[4] He invested $11 million in media outlet in 2011.[22]


Mercer was an activist in the campaign to pull the United Kingdom out of the European Union, also known as Brexit. According to Andy Wigmore, communications director of, Mercer donated the services of data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica to the head of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage. The firm was able to advise through its ability to harvest data from people's Facebook profiles in order to target them with individualized persuasive messages to vote for Brexit. However, did not inform the UK electoral commission of the donation. A law demands that all donations valued over £7,500 must be reported, but the advice given does not have a hard-set value. [7]

2016 U.S. election[edit]

According to the Center for Responsive Politics Mercer is currently ranked the #1 donor to federal candidates in the 2016 election cycle, ahead of Renaissance founder James Harris Simons who is ranked #5 and generally donates to Democrats.[16] By June 2016, Mercer had donated $2 million to John R. Bolton's super PAC and $668,000 to the Republican National Committee.[16] Mercer was a major financial supporter of the 2016 presidential campaign of Ted Cruz,[23] contributing $11 million to a super PAC associated with the candidate.[24] Reporter Zachary Mider, writing for Bloomberg in January 2016, called Mercer "the biggest single donor" in the 2016 U.S. presidential race.[4]

Mercer was a major supporter of Donald Trump's 2016 campaign for president.[6] Mercer and his daughter played a role in the elevation of Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway into senior roles in the Trump campaign.[21] Rebekah worked with Conway on the Cruz Super-PAC Keep the Promise in the 2016 Republican primaries.[8] Mercer also financed a Super PAC, Make America Number One, which supported Trump's campaign.[21] Nick Patterson, a former colleague of Mercer's, has said, "In my view, Trump wouldn't be President if not for Bob.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Mercer and his wife Diana have three daughters,[20] Jennifer ("Jenji"), Rebekah ("Bekah"), and Heather Sue. Rebekah runs the Mercer Family Foundation. Heather Sue Mercer successfully sued Duke University for Title IX discrimination in 2000, and like her father is a competitive poker player (global ranking 67,182).[25] The three Mercer daughters own a bakery called Ruby et Violette.[23][26]

Mercer plays "competitive" poker (ranking 62,841 in life winnings)[27] and owns an HO scale model railroad (which cost about $2.7 million, according to the lawsuit brought by Mercer against its designer).[4] In 2009, Mercer filed suit against RailDreams Custom Model Railroad Design, alleging that RailDreams overcharged him by $2 million.[28]

Mercer lives at "Owl's Nest" "mansion" in Head of the Harbor, New York.[29] Mercer has commissioned a series of yachts, all named Sea Owl.[30] The most recent one is 203 feet in length, and has a pirate-themed playroom for Mercer's grandchildren and a chandelier of Venetian glass. In Florida, Mercer built a large stable and riding center. Mercer has acquired one of the country's "largest" collections of machine guns and historical firearms, including a weapon Arnold Schwarzenegger wielded in The Terminator.[4]

Opinions on 1964 Civil Rights Act[edit]

According to a March 2017 New Yorker article by investigative journalist Jane Mayer, David Magerman, a former Renaissance employee, disclosed that Mercer has criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark federal statute arising from the civil rights movement of the 1960s.[12] According to Magerman, Mercer was reported to have considered the law a "major mistake" and surmised that African Americans were economically better off before the civil rights movement. Magerman also alleged that Mercer had posited that white racists no longer existed in the United States and that the only racists remaining were African American. Mercer vigorously denies being a white supremacist.[12]

Lawsuit by household staff[edit]

In 2013, Mercer was sued by several members of his household staff, who accused him of docking their wages and failing to pay overtime compensation.[29] The lawsuit was "resolved amicably", according to an attorney who represented members of his household staff.[23]


  1. ^ "Brides-To-Be". Albuquerque Journal. Albuquerque, New Mexico. May 25, 1967. p. 13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Delevigne, Lawrence (8 November 2014). "Have Mercer! The money man who helped the GOP win". CNBC. Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Carole Cadwalladr: The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked, The Guardian, 17. May 2017
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Mider, Zachary (20 January 2016). "What Kind of Man Spends Millions to Elect Ted Cruz?". Bloomberg. Retrieved 28 January 2016. 
  5. ^ "Keep the Promise I/Make America Number 1 Contributors, 2016 cycle". OpenSecrets. 2016-11-18. Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  6. ^ a b Swan, Jonathan (17 August 2016). "Billionaire father and daughter linked to Trump shake-up". The Hill. Retrieved 18 August 2016. 
  7. ^ a b "Hedge-fund billionaire and Donald Trump backer 'played key role in Brexit campaign'". The Independent. 2017-02-26. Retrieved 2017-02-27. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Zuckerman, Gregory, Keach Hagey, Scott Patterson and Rebecca Ballhaus, "Meet the Mercers: A Quiet Tycoon and His Daughter Become Power Brokers in Trump’s Washington" (subscription), Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2017. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  9. ^ a b Bob Mercer; Peter Brown (18 October 2013). "Twenty Years of Bitext" (transcript). Retrieved 9 April 2017. 
  10. ^ a b c Patterson, Scott. "Pioneering Fund Stages Second Act". Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  11. ^ "Robert L. Mercer receives the 2014 ACL Lifetime Achievement Award". ACL. Retrieved August 16, 2014. video
  12. ^ a b c d e Mayer, Jane (19 March 2017). "The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency". The New Yorker. 
  13. ^ "The 40 Highest-Earning Hedge Fund Managers". Forbes. Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  14. ^ Mallaby, Sebastian (2011). More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite. Penguin Press. ISBN 978-0143119418. 
  15. ^ Phillips, Amber (21 September 2015). "The 10 most influential billionaires in politics". Washington Post. Retrieved 22 September 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c Bowers, John (7 June 2016). "A hedge fund house divided: Renaissance Technologies". OpenSecrets Blog. Center for Responsive Politics. Retrieved 9 June 2016. 
  17. ^ Yang, Jia Lynn (October 11, 2013). "Here's who pays the bills for Ted Cruz's crusade". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  18. ^ Vogel, Kenneth (October 14, 2014). "Koch donors uncloaked". Politico. Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  19. ^ Mapes, Jeff (October 16, 2010). "Wealthy financier is mysterious funder of ads attacking DeFazio". The Oregonian. Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  20. ^ a b Vogel, Kenneth; Schrekinger, Ben (7 September 2016). "The most powerful woman in GOP politics". Politico. Retrieved 7 September 2016. 
  21. ^ a b c Confessore, Nicholas (18 August 2016). "How One Family’s Deep Pockets Helped Reshape Donald Trump’s Campaign". New York Times. Retrieved 18 August 2016. 
  22. ^ Kutner, Max (November 21, 2016). "Meet Robert Mercer, the mysterious billionaire benefactor of Breitbar". Newsweek. Retrieved March 6, 2017. 
  23. ^ a b c Lichtblau, Eric; Stevenson, Alexandra (April 10, 2015). "Hedge-Fund Magnate Robert Mercer Emerges as a Generous Backer of Cruz". New York Times. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  24. ^ Lichtblau, Eric (July 31, 2015). "'Super PACs' Spent Millions Before Candidates Announced, Filings Show". New York Times. Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  25. ^ "Heather Sue Mercer". HendonMob Poker Database. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  26. ^ Ferretti, Elena (December 15, 2009). "Cooking Up a New Cookie Company". 
  27. ^ "Robert Mercer". HendonMob Poker Database. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  28. ^ Marzulli, John (March 31, 2009). "Hedge fund hotshot Robert Mercer files lawsuit over $2M model train, accusing builder of overcharge". NY Daily News. New York. Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  29. ^ a b Smythe, Christie (July 17, 2013). "Renaissance Co-CEO Mercer Sued by Home Staff for Over Pay". Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  30. ^ Matea Gold (March 17, 2017). "The Mercers and Stephen Bannon: How a populist power base was funded and built. The wealthy GOP donors and Trump’s chief strategist collaborated on at least five ventures.". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 19, 2017.