How a Straight Hedge Fund Guy Got Into LGBT Philanthropy

Billionaire hedge fund founder and Third Point owner Daniel Loeb is a tough guy to pin down. On the one hand, his "activist investing" business tactics have earned him a long line of critics—among them, George Clooney. On the other, he's deep into Ashtanga yoga, which has taken him to India for a month and inspired him to back a charter school in the Bronx that has become a top performer.

Loeb's wife Margaret Davidson Munzer, a graduate of Fieldston Ethical Culture and NYU's School of Social Work (read: liberal) seems to be a factor, and we suspect she's a strong force in the couple's giving through their Loeb Family Third Point Foundation. In recent years, the foundation has supported the Brady Center, which works for gun control, and Equality Now, which focuses on women's empowerment.

And then there is the Loebs' involvement in LGBT issues. This year's Davos Annual Meeting at the World Economic Forum was hosted by CNN's Fareed Zakaria and sponsored by the Huffington Post and Microsoft. The forum discussed the current state of gay, lesbian and transgender rights with an international portfolio of activists. Surprisingly, not only was Daniel Loeb in attendance, he was a presenter and sponsor, stating that "as an activist, it resonated to see the levers that can be pushed." 

Now, again, usually when the world "activist" is linked to Loeb's name it's used to describe his investing strategies, which often include buying a hunk of stock and then bullying some hapless company into taking whatever steps Loeb thinks will raise the value of those shares. 

See IP's full profile of Daniel Loeb

If Loeb can, indeed, claim status as an activist on LGBT issues, what or who pushed him there? 

The answer in part is fellow billionaire Paul E. Singer of Elliott Management, who was forced to evaluate his stance on gay marriage when his 21-year-old son came out to him. Since then, Singer has been enlisting other prominent businessmen and Loeb was one billionaire he tapped.

In 2011, Loeb, Singer and several others worked closely with Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature on the state's successful effort to legalize marriage equality. It's unclear how much Loeb gave individually to this push, but collectively, their checks totalled more than $1 million, according to The New York Times.

In recent years, Loeb and his wife have funded the Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. LGBT rights group, which is engaged in an effort, post-Sochi, to push back on Putin's antigay legislation. As Loeb puts it: "I am proud to support HRC's new initiative to protect LGBT rights globally. The challenges the LGBT community faces are acute in many countries, where discrimination takes violent and sometimes deadly forms."

It's worth noting that Loeb was an early funder of the historic 2010 Perry lawsuit sponsored by the American Foundation for Equal Rights. He also signed an amicus brief in the California Prop 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry.

Much like some of Loeb's philanthropy in other areas, the streams of money flowing from his foundation appear to be modest and not all of it is showing up on annual 990 forms. However, it's clear the couple has an ongoing interest in LGBT equality. 

Loeb is still a young 52 and has over $2 billion. He's definitely a guy to be watched by LGBT groups.