NET WORTH: Unknown
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Co-CEO, Renaissance Technologies
FUNDING AREAS: Policy, Higher Education
OVERVIEW: Robert Mercer is a major conservative and Republican donor. On the philanthropic end, Mercer, his wife Diana and daughter Rebekah make many of their contributions through the Mercer Family Foundation. Conservative nonprofits such as the Media Research Center, George W. Bush Foundation, and the Heartland Institute have received millions each. Mercer has also been a strong funder of SUNY Stony Brook.
BACKGROUND: Robert Mercer grew up in New Mexico. He was obsessed with computers, writing code in high school even though he didn't have a machine to run it on. Mercer got a B.S. from the University of New Mexico, and received a Ph.D. in computer science from University of Illinois. He worked at IBM, where he developed speech recognition programs at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center. Mercer and his IBM colleague Peter Brown both joined James Simons' Renaissance Technologies in 1993, and Mercer and Brown now serve as co-CEOs. Mercer's current net worth is unknown, but he earned an estimated $125 million in 2011, $100 million in 2012 and $115 million in 2013, according to hedge fund publication Alpha.
POLICY: The Mercers recently backed Republican candidate Ted Cruz (the largest donors to the Cruz campaign) and have been enormous funders of the Republican party and conservative causes, cutting checks for a total of $37 million in the past six years according to Bloomberg. In 2014, Mercer gave more to the Koch outfit Freedom Partners Action Fund than the Koch brothers themselves. Mercer is certainly right of center, and is an NRA member who's financed opposition to building an Islamic Center near Ground Zero according to Forbes. The Mercer Family Foundation has given to a number of different conservative policy institutions including the Heartland Institute, which describes itself as a "think tank promoting public policy based on individual liberty, limited government, and free markets," the Media Research Center (which received nearly $3 million in 2013), and the George W. Bush Foundation. Other outfits receiving recent support include the Heritage Foundation, and the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Of the approximately $13 million in grantmaking the foundation did in 2013, a majority went towards policy work.
HIGHER EDUCATION: Mercer has been a supporter of SUNY Stony Brook in Long Island. The Mercers live in Long Island. It's also worth noting that founder of Renaissance James Simons taught at SUNY Stony Brook and Renaissance Technologies is in close proximity to the university as well. Around $2.2 million went to SUNY Stony Brook in 2011.
OTHER: Mercer has recently supported the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, and the Home Depot Foundation whose mission is to "improve the homes and lives of U.S. military veterans and their families." $1.1 million went to the Home Depot Foundation in 2012. Given Mercer's background in the sciences, he's supported outfits such as the National Youth Science Fund, the World Science Festival, and the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM). What's interesting about OISM, is that according to Bloomberg, Mercer has bankrolled research at that outfit to refute connections between humans and climate change.
LOOKING AHEAD: Especially with a new presidential cycle not too far down the line, Mercer's interests in conservative policy work could be even more in play. Director of the foundation Rebekah Mercer also takes a leadership role in this area.
Mercer Family Foundation
240 Riverside Blvd., Apt. 24A
New York, NY United States 10069