Everyone seems to have an opinion about Solyndra, the solar panel maker that went bankrupt last summer after burning through more than $1.5 billion of public and private financing. But not everyone is entitled to their own facts.
This brings us to conservative columnist Michelle Malkin, who yesterday wrote a column titled “Obama’s Green Robber Barons.” She’s got some pretty broad syndication, so it’s worth rebutting one of her major claims:
In the wake of the half-billion-dollar Solyndra stimulus bust… billionaire Democratic donor and frequent White House guest George Kaiser, whose nonprofit foundation was Solyndra’s biggest investor, is still sitting pretty. He and the other private investors of Solyndra will recoup their losses ahead of taxpayers.
This goes to one of the most fundamental misunderstandings about Solyndra, and is a grossly irresponsible claim.
Solyndra began life by raising venture capital from private sources. Among those was Argonaut Private Equity, the Kaiser-affiliated nonprofit to which Malkin referred. In total, the company raised nearly $1 billion in equity funding from these investors — including approximately $270 million from Argonaut. That money is now gone. Written off. Never to be seen again.
Those investors will not “recoup their losses ahead of taxpayers,” who are on the hook for a subsequent $527 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy (the actual loan was $535 million, but Solyndra didn’t call all of it down).
What Malkin likely is referring to is a $75 million loan that Solyndra received after the DoE loan, from Argonaut and another existing Solyndra investor called Madrone Capital Partners (which is affiliated with Wal-mart heir Rob Walton). This loan does indeed have seniority to the DoE loan — because it came later — but it’s but a fraction of what Argonaut had already invested. Even if the entire $75 million loan gets repaid, Argonaut would still lose its original $270 million equity investment. How on earth is that “sitting pretty?”
If you want to argue that Solyndra was an example of crony capitalism, then make that case. But don’t pretend that the company’s investors somehow got rich while taxpayers got screwed. It just didn’t happen that way.
Sign up for my daily email newsletter on deals and deal-makers: GetTermSheet.com