Major right-wing donor Bob Mercer is stepping down as co-CEO of his hedge fund and selling his stake in Breitbart

Republican political strategists Nick Ayers and Kellyanne Conway with Rebekah Mercer at Trump Tower in 2016.

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Republican political strategists Nick Ayers and Kellyanne Conway with Rebekah Mercer at Trump Tower in 2016.
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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    Major Republican donor Robert Mercer is stepping down as co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies. Mercer is also selling his stake in Breitbart News. In a letter to employees, he sought to distance himself from polarizing figures like Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulous.

Hedge-fund billionaire and major conservative donor Robert Mercer is stepping down from his position as co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, he said Thursday.

In a letter to employees obtained by Business Insider, Mercer said he had become an object of press scrutiny in the past year, referencing his activity as a major conservative donor. The hedge-fund founder had previously stayed mum about his political beliefs.

“During the past year, I have been the object of a great deal of scrutiny from the press,” he wrote. “I have declined to comment on what has been written about me, imagining that with time the attention would dissipate. Because that has yet to happen, I have decided to correct some of the misinformation that has been published about me. It is not my intention to impose the views I describe below on anyone else.”

In addition to leaving his position at Rentech, Mercer announced in the letter that he will also sell his stake in the far-right news website Breitbart News to his daughters – including Rebekah Mercer, a major Republican donor who served on the executive committee of US President Donald Trump’s transition team.

Mercer did not give a reason for his departure.

But in the letter, he sought to distance himself from some polarizing figures with whom he has become associated, including former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who now again heads Breitbart, and the right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulous, who has faced criticism since a BuzzFeed expose outlined the online ecosystem showing his links with white nationalists.

“The press has also intimated that my politics marches in lockstep with Steve Bannon’s. I have great respect for Mr. Bannon, and from time to time I do discuss politics with him. However, I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically. Those decisions do not always align with Mr. Bannon’s,” he said.

Of Yiannopoulos, he said: “I supported Milo Yiannopoulos in the hope and expectation that his expression of views contrary to the social mainstream and his spotlighting of the hypocrisy of those who would close down free speech in the name of political correctness would promote the type of open debate and freedom of thought that is being throttled on many American college campuses today. But in my opinion, actions of and statements by Mr. Yiannopoulos have caused pain and divisiveness undermining the open and productive discourse that I had hoped to facilitate. I was mistaken to have supported him, and for several weeks have been in the process of severing all ties with him.”

Mercer said he would step down as co-CEO and from the hedge fund’s board. He said he would continue to contribute to the research side of the firm. Mercer has also been a significant financial backer of Cambridge Analytica, the data-analytics firm that worked with the Trump campaign and has come under scrutiny in investigations into Russian election meddling.

Read the full letter:

“During the past year, I have been the object of a great deal of scrutiny from the press. I have declined to comment on what has been written about me, imagining that with time the attention would dissipate. Because that has yet to happen, I have decided to correct some of the misinformation that has been published about me. It is not my intention to impose the views I describe below on anyone else.

“My goal is simply to explain my thinking, the very essence of which is that all of us should think for ourselves.

“I believe that individuals are happiest and most fulfilled when they form their own opinions, assume responsibility for their own actions, and spend the fruits of their own labor as they see fit. I believe that a collection of individuals making their own decisions within the confines of a clear and concise set of laws that they have determined for themselves will advance society much more effectively than will a collection of experts who are confident in their knowledge of what is best for everyone else. This is why I support conservatives, who favor a smaller, less powerful government.

“A society founded on the basis of the individual freedom that flourishes under a limited federal government has no place for discrimination. Of the many mischaracterizations made of me by the press, the most repugnant to me have been the intimations that I am a white supremacist or a member of some other noxious group.

“Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, creed, or anything of that sort is abhorrent to me. But more than that, it is ignorant.

“The press has also intimated that my politics marches in lockstep with Steve Bannon’s. I have great respect for Mr. Bannon, and from time to time I do discuss politics with him. However, I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically. Those decisions do not always align with Mr. Bannon’s.

“Without individuals thinking for themselves, society as a whole will struggle to distinguish the signal of truth from the correlated noise of conformity. I supported Milo Yiannopoulos in the hope and expectation that his expression of views contrary to the social mainstream and his spotlighting of the hypocrisy of those who would close down free speech in the name of political correctness would promote the type of open debate and freedom of thought that is being throttled on many American college campuses today. But in my opinion, actions of and statements by Mr. Yiannopoulos have caused pain and divisiveness undermining the open and productive discourse that I had hoped to facilitate. I was mistaken to have supported him, and for several weeks have been in the process of severing all ties with him.

“For personal reasons, I have also decided to sell my stake in Breitbart News to my daughters.

“I would also like to inform you of a decision I have reached with respect to my role at Renaissance, an organization I adore with colleagues whom I deeply respect and admire. I am 71 years old, the same age that Jim Simons was when he retired. I do not plan to retire, but I do plan to relinquish my management responsibilities.

“Peter Brown and I have been Co-CEOs for the past eight years. On January 1, 2018, I will step down from my position as Co-CEO and resign from the board of directors. I will continue with the firm as a member of its technical staff, focusing on the research work that I find most fulfilling. Peter will continue on as CEO, and I will provide him with my counsel whenever he feels that I can be helpful to him and to the company where I have spent so many wonderful years.”

Rachael Levy contributed reporting.