Friendship with Jamaican Connected Ted Cruz to Island Business and Politics

Jamaican David Panton invited his Princeton and Harvard Law School roommate with Cuban ties, Ted Cruz, to join a business venture on the island. Although the business dissolved in 2003, the connection represents a digression from Cruz’s movement from Ivy League colleges to a clerkship at the United States Supreme Court to the U.S. Senate and currently to U.S. presidential candidate in 2016, and a diversion from his strong small-government philosophy. Panton had invited Cruz to join the group of entrepreneurs to help them get the rights to manage a new investment enterprise, focused on the Caribbean region, and launched by a top Jamaican executive. The business idea took its inspiration from U.S. private equity firms that used investor money to restructure underperforming companies, but in a new twist, investors’ money would be obtained, in part, from government leverage of funds intended to boost conditions in developing countries. Cruz was tapped for his skills in negotiation and helped the Jamaican entrepreneurs refine their ideas for managing their new company. With his help, the group obtained the rights to control an expected $150-million fund. While the firm lost the contract within a five-year period due to a disputed investment decision, Cruz received a return of $25,000 on his initial $6,000 investment – and a promise of another $75,000. He exited the partnership just before it fell apart. Cruz and Panton have remained friends throughout the years, and Panton is an enthusiastic political supporter of Cruz who helped launch the first super PAC to back his presidential candidacy.