Pai Joins Searchlight Capital Partners

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Former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will join a private equity firm. The New York Post reports he becomes the fourth of the last eight Commission chairs to do so.

Searchlight Capital Partners, L.P. announced Pai’s appointment Monday, as a partner and a prospective board member of a number of Searchlight’s existing investments in the technology, media, and telecommunications sectors (TMT). The firm’s investments include Spanish-language broadcaster Univision and telecom service provider Mitel.

Pai first joined the FCC as a Commissioner in 2012, after being nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate. In 2017, he was designated Chairman by President Donald Trump and again received Senate confirmation. Earlier in his career, Pai held various positions at the Department of Justice and the Senate. Before joining the FCC, he worked as a partner at the law firm of Jenner & Block and as in-house counsel at Verizon Communications.

“TMT has always been a core focus at Searchlight and in recent years we have seen the opportunities in these sectors grow, a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Eric Zinterhofer, a Founding Partner of Searchlight. He said Pai’s FCC achievements “had a material impact on the broadband, wireless, and broadcast sectors, and his deep knowledge will be invaluable in accelerating our efforts in TMT and digital infrastructure.”

Commenting on his new role, Pai said he’s excited to join the Searchlight team “and help build on the firm’s demonstrated success in the technology media, and telecommunications sectors, especially with respect to digital infrastructure.”

Since 2001, former FCC Chairman William Kennard joined the Carlyle Group; Michael Powell went to Providence Equity Partners; Julius Genachowski to Carlyle and now Pai to Searchlight.

Former Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps found the news disappointing, according to the Post. He said commissioners tend to be more sympathetic to private equity firms and corporations when they are commissioners if they know that they might also, one day, become their future employers. “We have a serious revolving door problem at the FCC. This is not encouraging.”

Two of the four FCC chairs who joined private equity firms since 2001 were Democrats and two Republicans, so the revolving door is not about party affiliation, Copps explained. “I want the general audience to know the phenomenon of the open door of government. It is widespread, not partisan and it is a public interest issue.”

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