‘Blank check’ firm hires Bill Clinton — and keeps quiet about it

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An environmentally focused “blank check” company had a remarkably quiet launch on Tuesday — despite the fact that it has tapped Bill Clinton to help it find an acquisition target.

TortoiseEcofin Acquisition Corp. III — whose name might suggest a slow, patient approach to ecological investments — went public on the New York Stock Exchange early Tuesday with little fanfare, securities filings show.

According to TortoiseEcofin III, the nation’s 42nd president has joined the board of the $300 million SPAC — or special-purpose acquisition company, which is essentially a shell company sitting on a pile of cash that can merge with a private firm to take it public.

“We intend to focus our search for a target business in the broad energy transition or sustainability arena targeting industries that require innovative solutions to decarbonize in order to meet critical emission reduction objectives,” reads a website for the blank-check company.

Clinton, who according to the filings holds the title of independent director and owns 10 percent of the company, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

He is listed alongside seven other members of the company’s management team, which includes Darrell Brock Jr. — an energy investor who used to work for Kentucky’s state government and was accused of hiring and firing state workers based on their politics, according to local media reports.

Tuesday’s low-key rollout flummoxed some financiers.

“I am left dumbfounded why — if you have such a high-profile personality associated with your project — why you wouldn’t be shouting it from the rooftop,” said David Tawil, co-founder and President of ProChain Capital.

The SPAC’s filing got scant press on Tuesday. Maybe it’s that ex-politicians doing SPACs is now old news, said University of Florida finance professor Jay Ritter. He points to former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s involvement in a $300 million blank-check deal last year, which was widely covered.

Nevertheless, Clinton is likely to come in handy for TortoiseEcofin III as a profusion of SPACs competes for targets, according to Ritter.

“There might be prospective acquisition companies that are getting emails from 40 different SPACs saying we want to talk to you — and one of them might instead have a call from Bill Clinton,” said Ritter. “A lot of CEOs, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, would be happy to spend an hour talking with him.”

The company is being led by former Bank of America investment banker Vince Cubbage, who holds the title of Chairman and CEO, and also includes management team members like former World Bank managing director Juan J. Daboub and ex-Citigroup executive Mary Beth Mandanas. 

Juan Jose Daboub is one of the SPAC’s execs who has tapped Bill Clinton to help them raise money.AP

In a statement Cubbage said: “We were aware of President Clinton’s commitment to clean energy and the environment and respect his work to fight climate change and expressed interest through his people in having him as a director.”

On Tuesday, TortoiseEcofin Acquisition Corp. III listed 30 million shares at $10 each under the ticker “TRTL.U.” Each share comes one ordinary class A share plus one-forth of a warrant that can be redeemed for additional shares at $11.50 each. 

But despite a year of investors salivating so much over SPACs as to trigger an SEC investigation, there appeared to be little investor interest in a blank-check company with Clinton’s blessing. 

The company’s shares were down one percent at $9.90 as of Tuesday afternoon, according to WeBull data, even as the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 1.6 percent. 

The first TortoiseEcofin SPAC merged with commercial electric vehicle company Hyliion in October and had its shares soar as high $50 on the news, according to MarketWatch data. The stock has since fallen to about $9.37. 

The second TortoiseEcofin said in February that it plans to merge with electric vehicle charging infrastructure company Volta, but that deal has not yet closed. 

Brock, Cubbage and Daboub are both listed as members of TortoiseEcofin II management team — but Clinton is not. 

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