Meet The Caribbean Man Behind Republican Presidential Hopeful Ted Cruz

david-panton-jamaica
Jamaican David Panton is firmly in Camp Cruz.
david-panton-jamaica
Jamaican David Panton is firmly in Camp Cruz.

By NAN Staff Writer

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Mon. May 2, 2016: Ted Cruz has been called many things: from “Lucifer” to “racist,” to “creepy.” And despite his immigrant roots, he has displayed nothing but anti-immigrant sentiments – much like Donald Trump – insisting he will deport all “illegal immigrants” and also “build a wall” to stop “illegal immigration.” So it’s shocking that an immigrant and a Caribbean national would be firmly camped in Team Cruz, defending the man and promoting him for President of the United States. Yet there is such a man behind Ted Cruz. Here are 10 things you should know about this Caribbean national:

1: His name is David Panton, P.H.D. He was born to a businessman turned Anglican priest in the Jamaica, West Indies town of Mandeville.

2: He met Cruz as a freshman at Princeton University at age 16 and the two became friends. “Ted and I just hit it off,” Mr. Panton was quoted by the New York Times as saying, adding that his friend schooled him on conservative politics. “Ted was very kind to me; he took an interest in what I was doing in my life and in my background.”

3: Their friendship continued on to Harvard Law School, where Panton, like Barack Obama before him, became president of the Harvard Law Review. He was the youngest member of his undergraduate class at Princeton University at the age of 20.

3: Panton returned to Jamaica as a businessman after his studies and in 1998 co-founded a fund with Cruz that was created to draw investments for Caribbean ventures. Cruz, according to the NY Times, put $6,000 into the firm, and ultimately left with $25,000 in cash and a $75,000 promissory note from Panton.

4: Panton, according to his bio, has 18 years of investment banking and private equity experience and has sourced, structured, managed, and/or invested in over 20 lower middle market transactions with a total enterprise value of over $5.0 billion.  He started his career as an Associate in the Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) group at Morgan Stanley & Co. in New York focused on Latin America and the Caribbean.  In 1998, he co-founded and became managing partner of the Caribbean Investment Fund, a $50 million private equity firm in Kingston, Jamaica.  In 2004, he became a vice president of Mellon Ventures, the $1.4 billion private equity firm arm of Mellon Financial.  In 2007, he co-founded and was a partner of Navigation Capital Partners, a $350 million private equity firm in Atlanta, where he remains a shareholder.

5: Panton made the move to politics, leading a youth wing of the Jamaica Labour Party, which Cruz addressed in 2001, and taking a seat in the country’s Senate.

6: He has earlier married Lisa Hanna, a former Miss Jamaica and Miss World who is now a member of Jamaica’s Parliament, in a New York ceremony during which Cruz gave the toast.  In 2001, he and Hanna had a child and Cruz was named godfather.

7: In 2004, he and his wife moved to Atlanta, where they divorced months later, touching off an international custody battle. By 2006, there was more scandalous reporting after former Miss Universe Wendy Fitzwilliam of Trinidad announced she was pregnant by Panton. They never married and by 2009, she published a tell-all book, “Letters to Ailan” — her son with Panton — that offered an at times unflattering portrait of the Jamaican businessman.

9: Panton established himself in the private equity business in Atlanta where he is the chairman of the Jamaican Chamber of Commerce of Atlanta. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, where he teaches a course in private equity investing and is a member of the Board of Trustees of Holy Innocent’s Episcopal School in Atlanta, GA; and a director of the Carlos Museum at Emory.

10: Panton, 44, set up one of the first “super PACs” supporting Cruz’s campaign, donating $100,000 to it. And he has aided his old debate partner by critiquing his performance at debate preparations, according to the NY Times while also urging Cruz, with whom he remains in regular contact, to relate more emotional stories about his upbringing including his late half sister’s battle with drugs. And he continues to defend Cruz to anyone who would listen. ““The media has caricatured Ted as this one-dimensional, hard-core guy,”  Panton is quoted by the Times as saying. “Ted is principled, but he is actually a good guy and was a great friend to me.”