Thomas Steyer: Stirring Success with Strategic Stakes

Thomas Steyer: Stirring Success with Strategic Stakes

By Charles Joseph | Editor, Financial Affairs
Reviewed by Corey Michael | Senior Financial Analyst

Thomas Steyer is an American businessman, philanthropist, environmentalist, liberal activist, and fund manager. He was born on June 27, 1957, in Manhattan, New York. He is a well-known figure in the world of finance due to his founding of Farallon Capital, a successful hedge fund. He later resigned from his position to focus on climate change issues and activism.

Steyer is a known figure in politics as well as a major fundraiser for the Democratic Party. He has been proactive about using his considerable wealth to support various political campaigns, notably his own 2020 campaign for the presidency. Though his bid was unsuccessful, he remained active and influential in the political scene.

Apart from politics and finance, he’s also deeply committed to philanthropy. Together with his wife, they signed the Giving Pledge, promising to donate half of their fortune in their lifetime. His overall contribution to society is significant, as it spans finance, environmental conservation, politics, and charity.

1. Career in Finance

Thomas Steyer started his career in finance at Morgan Stanley in 1979. After gaining experience there, he moved onto the Goldman Sachs risk arbitrage division where he worked until 1985. But the hallmark of his financial career came when he established Farallon Capital Management in 1986.

Farallon Capital Management was a hedge fund that Steyer founded in San Francisco. This firm managed capital for institutions and high net worth individuals. Although its investment strategies were somewhat diverse, it’s best known for risk arbitrage. Under Steyer’s leadership, the firm grew to become one of the largest and most successful hedge funds in the country.

Beyond just success, Steyer’s management of Farallon Capital was marked by a high degree of integrity and good citizenship, contributing to its respected reputation. After running Farallon for about 26 years, Steyer chose to step down in 2012. He sold his stake in the business and redirected his energy to focus on environmental advocacy and philanthropy. Even after leaving finance, Steyer’s influence continued to be felt, showcasing the impact of his remarkable journey in this industry.

2. Political Activism and Candidacy

Politically, Thomas Steyer has been a significant force in supporting democratic ideals and candidates. He is known for putting his wealth behind numerous political causes, primarily aligned with the Democratic Party. His close involvement in politics drew national attention when he launched a campaign to impeach former president Donald Trump, funding a $10 million television ad campaign to that end in 2017.

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In July 2019, Steyer decided to step into the political ring himself, announcing his bid for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party in 2020. His campaign focused on climate change and the influence of corporations in politics, especially emphasizing his commitment to economic and environmental justice. However, his candidacy was not successful, and he dropped out of the race in February 2020.

Despite not achieving the presidency, Steyer remained politically active. Post his bid, he continued to use his resources to inform public discourse and help shape policy, especially with regard to environmental issues. His consistent activism makes him a compelling figure in the realm of political action and advocacy.

3. Philanthropic Efforts

Thomas Steyer’s commitment to philanthropy is as significant as his involvement in finance and politics. He believes firmly in giving back, and this is central to many of his endeavors. His most significant philanthropic act, perhaps, was his decision to sign the Giving Pledge in 2010. This commitment, initiated by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates, involves pledging to donate the majority of his wealth within his lifetime.

Environmental causes receive a significant portion of Steyer’s philanthropy, reflecting his sustained interest in combating climate change. One notable example is the TomKat Charitable Trust, founded by Steyer and his wife. The organization supports environmental causes, sustainable food systems, and renewable energy ventures. To support his climate change advocacy even further, he also founded NextGen America, a nonprofit group that supports progressive positions on climate change, immigration, health care, and education.

In addition to this, education is another primary focus of Steyer’s philanthropic efforts. He has donated millions of dollars to Yale University, Stanford University, and other educational institutions. He also served on the board of trustees at Stanford University. His charitable efforts, combined with his activism, underscore his dedication to making a positive impact on society.


Thomas Steyer’s multifaceted identity as an accomplished financier, political activist, and philanthropist has uniquely positioned him to make significant contributions across a spectrum of arenas. His dynamic journey inspires many, showcasing how influence and wealth can be leveraged towards making a positive societal impact, be it in finance, politics, or philanthropy.

Key Takeaways

  • Thomas Steyer has had a significant impact across multiple fields, including finance, politics, and philanthropy.
  • He founded Farallon Capital Management, one of the largest hedge funds in America.
  • Steyer has been an influential political activist, funding democratic campaigns and running for presidency in 2020.
  • He pledged to donate the majority of his wealth in his lifetime, demonstrating a serious commitment to philanthropic causes.
  • His primary philanthropic focuses encompass environmental causes and education.

Related Questions

1. What philanthropic causes does Thomas Steyer support?

Steyer supports a broad range of philanthropic causes, but he’s particularly invested in environmental and educational initiatives. His charitable trust, the TomKat Charitable Trust, supports causes related to climate change and sustainability. He’s also donated millions to educational institutions like Yale and Stanford.

2. How has Thomas Steyer influenced American politics?

Steyer has had substantial influence on American politics, primarily as a major supporter of the Democratic Party. Notably, he deployed his resources to fund a campaign to impeach former president Donald Trump. He also ran as a democratic candidate for the presidency in 2020, focusing his campaign on climate change and corporate influence in politics.

3. What was Thomas Steyer’s role at Farallon Capital Management?

Thomas Steyer was the founder of Farallon Capital Management, which he established in 1986. He led the firm as it became one of the largest and most successful hedge funds in the nation. Steyer managed Farallon for 26 years before stepping down to concentrate on activism and philanthropy.

4. Why did Thomas Steyer run for president?

Steyer ran for the presidency to address issues he felt were fundamental to the nation’s future, specifically climate change and corporate influence in politics. Though his presidential bid was unsuccessful, it heightened the national discourse on these critical issues.

5. What is the Giving Pledge that Thomas Steyer signed?

The Giving Pledge is a commitment made by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to give away more than half of their wealth during their lifetime or in their will. Initiated by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates, Steyer and his wife signed this pledge in 2010, demonstrating their commitment to philanthropy.