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Former Trump administration Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is planning a return to media investing, though expect an emphasis on digital content than the traditional theatrical films he financed before his turn in government.
Mnuchin has raised $2.5 billion for his private equity fund, Liberty Strategic Capital, and is seeking investments in the technology sector, fintech, cybersecurity, financial services, as well as in “new forms of content,” per a press release that accompanied its first investment, in which it led a $275 million raise by the cybersecurity firm Cybereason.
It isn’t entirely clear what Liberty has in mind by “new forms of content,” but many big tech companies are pushing virtual and augmented reality hardware and content products, and digital gaming (both classic video games and content around sports wagering) remain hot markets. That emphasis suggests that Mnuchin, who has film producing credits on Wonder Woman, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Lego Movie and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, among other projects, appears to be focusing more on those nascent digital media opportunities in the streaming era.
Before becoming Treasury secretary, Mnuchin had a major slate financing deal with Warner Bros. as part of his partnership with subsequently disgraced producer-director Brett Ratner and billionaire James Packer, dubbed RatPac-Dune Entertainment. Before that, he was co-chairman of Relativity Media but extricated himself from the studio before it filed for bankruptcy in 2015. Dune also had a long-running slate financing deal with Fox that saw Mnuchin invest in critically acclaimed features like Black Swan and 127 Hours. (Mnuchin’s wife, Louise Linton, is a writer, director and actress, with her latest film, Me You Madness, selling to STX last year.)
Bloomberg, which first reported the raise Sept. 20, reports that investors in the Liberty Strategic Capital fund include the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, family offices and insurance firms. That Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is providing an undisclosed amount to Mnuchin’s coffers may raise eyebrows in Hollywood.
The PIF was once poised to become a significant Hollywood backer until the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi — a killing linked to the country’s royal family — made Saudi investment radioactive to multiple industries. Though his Hollywood plans remain unclear (Liberty’s investment focus is still tech-heavy), his reemergence with Saudi cash could be a way for the PIF to regain a foothold in the entertainment business after the Khashoggi PR debacle prompted Endeavor Content and others to eschew money from the country’s sovereign wealth fund.
Mnuchin has also lined up a number of former administration officials to serve in varying capacities for Liberty. David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador to Israel, is leading the company’s Tel Aviv office, while former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford is serving as an adviser.
Tatiana Siegel contributed reporting.
Sept. 21, 11:45 am PST Updated story throughout with additional reporting.
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