The new British Prime Minister is surprisingly American
You may have glossed over the crazy news coming out of the UK lately, but it’s actually an important thing, especially when it comes to the country’s new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, whose backstory has deep and surprising American ties.
I’ll get to those good things about Sunak in a moment, but first a word about the connection between America and England. France or Israel might believe they have a special relationship with the United States, but they are fighting for second place. We’ve had ties to England since the ill-fated colony of Virginia in 1584, and in the five centuries since, no country has been closer.
Winston Churchill called US-British relations “special” in a 1946 report speech in Fulton, Missouri with President Harry Truman. Certainly, we have some differences: cold beer against hot beer, color against color, football against football. But we have much more in common. The United States and the United Kingdom share a love for the British royal family and incredible cross-cultural mixes when it comes to rock music, fashion and television.
Economic ties between the world’s first and sixth largest economies, behind India, Germany, Japan and China, also play a crucial role. According to US Embassy in the UK website.
There’s more to it, says Wall Street investor Ann Berry, a Briton with an MBA from Harvard. The United States needs all the allies it can get in light of tensions with Russia, Saudi Arabia and China, she notes.
“The historic ally ship becomes more relevant in the modern world as global allegiances become less transparent, more transient, more transactional,” she said. “I think the UK is still a friend of the United States, I think he will always be a friend to us. And he’s still a performer on this side of the Atlantic when it comes to know how to play in Europe.
The UK is facing significant economic problems, some due to universal supply and demand imbalances, others due to special circumstances in the UK, some of which stemmed from Brexit or leaving the EU almost two years ago now. This resulted in multinationals move their European headquarters out of London, labor shortage and trade frictions. The soaring dollar and high energy prices inflict even more suffering.
This troubled economy falls into the fold of the new British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, (pronounced REE-she SUE-nack) leader of the Tory party, in power for 12 years. He succeeds Liz Truss, whose difficult term as British Prime Minister ended after just six weeks amid extreme market volatility.
Sunak’s financial expertise should prove invaluable in this new role, and markets have already stabilized. As well as having ties to the financial world, the new PM also has deep ties to the United States
The new Prime Minister is a man of many firsts. At 42, he is the youngest PM since William Pitt (the Younger), who took office in 1783 at the age of 24. UK-born Sunak is India’s first PM. He is also the first former hedge fund executive, the first to have an MBA from Stanford, and the first to have worked at Goldman Sachs.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these American connections. After graduating from Oxford in 2001, Rishi joined Goldman in London as an analyst, where for a time he sat next to the aforementioned Ann Berry.
“He was very intelligent, analytical, very articulate and a really enjoyable character,” she says. “He was very focused, even then, to make sure he was doing something that had a wider impact.”
Sunak left Goldman and went to Stanford on a Fulbright scholarship where he earned an MBA in 2006. There is color on his Stanford days in a biography of Sunak published in 2020 (How Many 40-Year-Olds Le justify?) titled (hopefully not literally) “Go for Broke” written by Lord Michael Ashcroft, a 76-year-old billionaire businessman and Conservative politician. Ashcroft writes that Silicon Valley dazzled Sunak, and he once commented on how it was possible to drive 10 minutes through the Bay Area and pass hundreds of life-changing companies.
The book is about the rigors of Stanford, and one of his classmates, Maria Anguiano, told the author, “Rishi did very well. He was always very positive. Another student there at the time, Rashad Bartholomew, remembers partying, but noted that Sunak did not drink but occasionally played low-stakes poker games.
After graduating from Stanford business school, Sunak worked in hedge funds in London, including The Children’s Investment Fund (known as TCI), run by British billionaire Chris Hohn, whom I described as “a fascinating guy who takes a lot of risks”, by a Briton. hedge fund manager. At one point, Hohn was making activist investments that included targeting U.S. railroad CSX, which traces its origins at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (or B&O), the oldest in the United States. The CSX stake ended up being a tangled affair and ended badly for TCI. Sunak has worked on CSX investing and his role has been mentioned in litigation.
Sunak is extremely wealthy, most of which comes from his wife, Akshata Murthygraduate of Claremont McKenna, met at Stanford, and daughter of the billionaire founder of Infosys, Narayana Murthy. Akshata owns 0.93% of Infosys worth approximately $700 million, according to Business Today, an Indian magazine. Infosys’ main activity has been to relocate thousands of American jobs to India, or replacing jobs in the United States with foreign nationals. He also repeatedly butted heads with US regulators.
But wait, there’s more Americana via the Murthys. Through Akshata and his family businesses, Sunak also has ties to companies that operate Wendy’s in India and a joint venture with Amazon in India, according to a Guardian investigation.
What I mean is that Sunak’s ties to America are as significant and singular as those to Britain itself and, indeed, reflect the changing nature of our relationship with England.
Think of it this way: in the 19th century, our ties were primarily commercial, perhaps best symbolized by Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-born American steel baron known for his philanthropy in the United States and the British Empire. In the 20th century, our military alliance with the United Kingdom was paramount, with Winston Churchill, much-loved by Americans (and reciprocated to some extent) as emblematic of that bond. And now, in the 21st century, with the ascendancy of finance, who better than Sunak, a Wall Street veteran with an American MBA, to be the last representation of Anglo-Americanism.
Rishi Sunak: As British/American as steak and kidney and apple pie.
This article was featured in a Saturday edition of the Morning Brief on October 29. Get the Morning Brief delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday by 6:30 a.m. ET. Subscribe
Follow Andy Serwer, Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo Finance, on Twitter: @waiter