June 3, 2023

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Austin Russell becomes the youngest self-made billionaire in 2021; Now he owns Forbes

Austin Russell is in a long run.

Founder and CEO of the company Luminarwhich develops vision-based lidar and machine-aware technologies primarily for self-driving cars Wall Street Journal Earlier today, he purchased an 82% stake in Forbes Global Media Holdings in a deal that values ​​the company at nearly $800 million.

According to the WSJ, Russell’s stake includes the remainder of the company owned by the family of the same name, which sold 95% of the company to Hong Kong-based integrated investor group Whale Media in 2014. Forbes has been essentially for sale from the moment it canceled its merger with the company. SPAC acquisition in June of last year, after the market soured and investors lost their appetite for SPACs.

Luminar himself had better timing; It went public through the SPAC merger in 2021 when retail investors were still clamoring for shares in mobility technology companies. However, by the time Forbes was canceling its SPAC plans, nearly every commuting plumber was too. Trade below offering price, and Luminar was not immune to the broader downturn. It had a market capitalization of $3.4 billion when it hit Wall Street, and now has a market capitalization of about $2 billion. Just I mentioned three days ago slight losses greater than expected.

Some retail investors may not be too happy with its performance, even as Russell told the Silicon Valley Business Journal: last year He never regretted the SPAC. (In his view, the alternative was to run out of money, as private market investors began closing their checkbooks.)

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Others may find it to be about this Russell – who in 2021 was described by Forbes itself as The youngest self-made billionaire in the world He will soon turn some of his attention elsewhere.

Shareholders — and Luminar employees — may find the acquisition confusing.

While it has become fashionable to run more than one company at once (Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey), as well as be a billionaire owner of a media company (Jeff Bezos, Laurene Powell Jobs, Marc Benioff), Forbes frequently buys outlets fighting for survival Conventional wisdom dollars.

Then again, Russell has focused on Luminar since 2012, when he left Stanford to start the company, with the help of a $100,000 grant from celebrity investor Peter Thiel. (The Thiel Fellowship Program, founded in 2011, continues to offer $100,000 to select students who are eager to spend two years on their idea rather than “sitting in class. “)

Russell enjoyed the fruits of his labor in the following years. He made an $83 million Los Angeles spread in 2021 who has since appeared on the hit show Succession. He reportedly paid another $10.6 million for a 13,000-square-foot mansion in Winter Park, Florida, near Luminar’s Orlando headquarters. But having spent his entire career focusing on Luminar, he may be looking to change the way he invests his time.

As Y Combinator Paul Graham once said as he lamented funding young founders in particular, sometimes the worst thing that can happen to anyone is that their startup succeeds instantly.

Said Graham:[I]If you start a successful business, the free-wheeling and carefree days of your life are over. You work for that company.”

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In a statement to WSJ, Russell simply said of his motivations that: “Forbes is something I’ve always looked up to as a brand and as a media empire.” He also told the outlet that he doesn’t plan to get involved in Forbes’ day-to-day operations but wants to evolve the outfit and emphasize “philanthropy” within the company.

TechCrunch contacted Russell a little while ago; We hope to get more from his latest moves soon.