William McGlashan, a central figure in the “Varsity Blues” scandal in which wealthy parents bribed coaches and test proctors to aid their children in getting into elite universities, was a prolific donor to Democratic and California political causes.
McGlashan, the managing partner of private-equity firm TPG Growth, lives in Mill Valley. He has been placed on administrative leave from the company and also has been suspended from the board of STX, the LA-based entertainment company he founded with Robert Simonds, the highly profitable producer of over 30 comedy films by Adam Sandler an many others. McGlashan’s photo has been removed from his page at Endeavor Global, Inc, the non profit founded by Linda Rottenberg and Peter Kellner aimed at enabling entrepreneurship around the world.
According to the racketeering conspiracy indictment filed by the US Attorney in Massachusetts, McGlashan paid $50,000 to Rick Singer, the operator of the corrupt firm, for a proctor to correct answers on his son’s college-entrance exam. To further ensure a spot at the University of Southern California, he was quoted a price to arrange to have his son recruited as a desired football prospect by a corrupt official at USC who was in on the scheme.
Mr. McGlashan liked the price he was hearing, $250,000: “I would do that in a heartbeat,” he told Mr. Singer.
The fact that the McGlashan boy’s school – elite Marin Academy — has no football team did not deter McGlashan or Singer. A profile including photoshopped images was created. And McGlashan observed an irony to Singer, “He does have really strong legs…Pretty funny. The way the world works these days is unbelievable.”
That’s not the only irony here.
A gregarious networker with his own elite resume — McGlashan is the product of two of the schools ensnared in the Varsity Blues mess, Yale ’86 and Stanford Business ’90—McGlashan became well-known throughout Silicon Valley for a heavy-handed focus on ethics, not a subject usually associated with venture capitalists. He detailed for the New York Times how the idea for an ethical venture fund struck him while vacationing on Richard Branson’s private island. He started the Rise Fund with Bono and Jeff Skoll, who had been eBay’s first employee, and they committed to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.
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While Mr. McGlashan was focused on socially responsible investing and his son’s fictional football career, Mrs. McGlashan was hard at work affecting the way her fellow Californians live. Her biggest effort was 2012’s Proposition 37, the initiative to require labeling of genetically engineered food. Marie McGlashan contributed at least $12,500 to the Yes side, which eventually failed by a razor thin 51-49 vote.
Prolific donor to Democratic candidates and causes
Meanwhile, William McGlashan was proving as generous with political candidates as he was with corrupt exam proctors. In May 2007, he went hard for then-longshot candidate Barack Obama with a maxout donation of $2300 and doubled down in mid-October with another $2300 (donors can “double max” by designating one donation to a primary campaign and another to a general). The backing showed real political acumen, as Obama at the time was falling further behind frontrunner Hillary Clinton before turning the race around with his performance at the Drexel debate on Oct. 30. That foresight was an improvement on previous McGlashan donations to Bill Bradley and John Kerry.
In 2018, McGlashan was particularly generous, giving $1500 contributions to at least ten Congressional candidates, all Democrats. Once again, McGlashan proved himself a shrewd investor – five of those seven won tight races, defeating incumbents or winning a seat being vacated by a Republican. His wins included Sean Casten of Illinois, who defeated six-term incumbent Peter Roskam; Jared Golden, who defeated Maine’s Bruce Poliquin in their weirdo ranked voting system; and Abigail Spanberger, who triumphed in Virginia.
Mrs. McGlashan fared less well at the federal level. She joined her husband in backing Barack Obama but also maxed out with $2700 to Jessica Morse in California’s 4th District, where Tom McClintock was one of the few Golden State Republicans to withstand the Blue Wave.
Six Months ago, Barrons asked McGlashan if he was having a hard time finding enough socially responsible investments for his fund’s $2 billion. McGlashan’s reply was both glib and telling. “There has been no lack of deal flow. Entrepreneurs want to hang out with the sparkly people on the founders’ board [who] want a company aligned with their agendas.”
Having allegedly paid $300,000 to ensure his son’s ill-gotten access to an elite university, this is a man who sees the value of associating with the sparkly people.