How Sunak’s ‘bougie’ life in California could look – including $61k school fees

By setting the election for 4 July, Rishi Sunak inadvertently reminded us that Britain isn’t the only country with a powerful sway over him.

The Prime Minister studied in America, made his fortune there and met his future wife at Stanford University in California.

Such was Mr Sunak’s affection for the US that he and his wife got green cards, or permanent residency, which he gave up in 2021 after he became the chancellor.

Whether voters decide to declare independence from the Conservatives next month remains to be seen, but if they do, Mr Sunak would find himself welcomed with open arms in the Golden State.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly denied speculation about a move across the pond, saying it was “simply not true” and the UK “is my home.”

“I mean, my football team just got promoted back in the Premiership and I hope to be watching them for years to come in the Premier League,” he said earlier this month.

But if Mr Sunak did decide to trade life in Westminster for west coast America, his penchant for Peloton, intermittent fasting and Mexican Coca Cola could see him fit in well – even if he does have to upgrade his trainers from Adidas Sambas.

Should Mr Sunak decide to move west, he would be able to tap “deep connections” in Silicon Valley, said Amber Atherton, executive director at GBx Global, a private organisation for British tech executives and investors in San Francisco.

She said that the Prime Minister’s work strengthening UK and US tech relationship “has been very warmly received in the Bay Area”.

“His Government’s support for organisations like GBx Global has won him a lot of support in the community here,” she said.

“If he were to ever move back to California I imagine it would be to a very warm reception with opportunities across the board from startups, to big tech or venture capital.”

Jonathan Tanner, co-founder of MitchelLake, a global executive recruitment company, said that Mr Sunak would be “sought after” once he leaves office.

“He’s a high achiever and his MBA from Stanford gives him an amazing network,” he told i. “At 44 he’s still young. People will employ him knowing he’s very bright and he’s had a crazy career trajectory.”

“I would think he’d be highly employable in the right circumstances after disentangling himself from any exit”.

Mr Tanner said that he wouldn’t be surprised if Mr Sunak took a break from work after the election to avoid the perception he was immediately cashing in on his government job.

Then Mr Sunak may choose to do something which marries a mission for the common good with executive level responsibility.

Mr Tanner said that most people he had worked with who transitioned out of politics took up a variety of roles on boards and advising private companies. But given Mr Sunak is so young he might prefer a “meatier” role as a chief executive.

“I could see him being approached by private equity or a global fund with hundreds of billions in assets,” Mr Tanner said.

“We’ve seen British politicians get involved in AI and late stage growth companies in an advisory role.

“Mr Sunak has great experience in negotiation and parlaying and vicissitudes of cross border co-operation that he could really leverage”.

Mr Sunak’s love affair with California began in 2004 when he became a Fulbright scholar at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

There he met his future wife, Akshata Murty, daughter of the founder of Indian tech firm Infosys. The couple got married and Mr Sunak had a career with US investment bank Goldman Sachs before co-founding hedge fund, Theleme Partners.

Combined with his wife’s inherited money, the couple have a net worth which has now grown to an estimated £651m.

Speaking years later when he ran to be leader of the Conservatives, Mr Sunak said that living in California was “one of the reasons that I would be good at this job”.

He said: ‘”Because what I will bring to this job is a way of thinking that is different. When we think about growth and in a modern economy, how do you drive growth – you drive it through innovation. Because of my experience I know how to build that type of economy”.

Mr Sunak returned to the UK and became the MP for Richmond in Yorkshire in 2015, but he and his wife have retained strong ties to California.

They have given generous donations to Stanford to fund its Center for Innovation and to Claremont McKenna, a private tech college, for the Murty Sunak quantitative computer lab.

Mr Sunak has also made valuable connections through his role as Prime Minister, including at his AI summit last November.

Among those who attended was US Vice President Kamala Harris, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, OpenAI founder Sam Altman and Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla.

FILE - Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, attends an in-conversation event with Tesla and SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk in London, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, Pool, File)
Rishi Sunak speaking with Elon Musk in London after the AI Safety Summit in Buckinghamshire in November last year (Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

Mr Tanner said he would not rule out Mr Sunak teaching at Stanford as part of a period of “reputation redesign” after leaving office.

“Sharing knowledge that’s collectively welcomed as education is not an out and out way to take advantage of your recent position,” he said. “He’d have interesting insights and his experience would contain a lot of value. He’d certainly have a lot of good stories”.

Stanford and Claremont McKenna did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr Sunak’s transition to California would no doubt be eased by his enormous wealth, which would mean money was no object when it came to finding a home.

San Francisco realtor Grace Wathen, who works for real estate company Compass, said that Mr Sunak would likely settle in Atherton or Menlo Park, which she said were “at the centre of the tech world”.

“Atherton is known as the tech executive town. It’s where all the really, really rich tech executives live – people who have sold their companies and are very wealthy.

“There’s only around 7,000 people living there and properties are typically an acre [4,000 sq m] or more,” she said.

“Menlo Park has a small downtown area with some restaurants but it doesn’t have that college town feel like Palo Alto, where Stanford is based”.

Atherton comes with the stamp of approval from Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister who is now No 2 at Facebook behind Mark Zuckerberg.

Mr Clegg owned a property in the town until 2022 when he sold it for $12m (£10.3m), making a handsome profit after he bought it for £6.7m in 2018.

Both Atherton and Menlo Park would be very close to huge venture capital companies like Hercules Capital and Sequoia, Ms Wathen said.

Murals are displayed in a common area at the new Facebook Inc. Frank Gehry-designed MPK 21 office building in Menlo Park, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. Facebook Inc. plans to redevelop whole swaths of the land it holds in the Silicon Valley city, potentially doubling its workforce there over the next decade to 35,000 people - more than Menlo Park's current population. Photographer: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Inside Meta’s offices in Menlo Park. Former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg took up a role at Facebook after leaving the UK (Photo: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A consultant who works with families to place their children in private schools, who asked to speak anonymously, said that Mr Sunak would look for an “elite” place like Menlo School in Menlo Park to educate his teenage daughters.

Referred to by locals as “Menlo”, fees are a staggering $61,600 per year (£48,141) making it one of the most expensive in the country.

“Everyone wants their kids to go there”, the consultant said.

San Francisco would even allow Mr Sunak to indulge his passion for cricket with its own cricket team, the San Francisco Unicorns, which competed in the inaugural Major League Cricket tournament last summer.

Another option for Mr Sunak is to return to his £5.5m penthouse in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, where he has spent holidays with the family visiting Disneyland and doing SoulCycle classes.

But if that is rented out then there are many other options in the city, said local real estate agent, Jan Knapik.

He said that Beverly Park would be a good neighbourhood as it was the “bougiest of bougie private gated communities” with residents including Adele, who bought Sylvester Stallone’s old home for $58m.

Mark Wahlberg recently sold his opulent 12-bedroom, 20-bathroom estate complete with a driving range, skate park, five-hole golf course and basketball court for $55m.

Then there is Malibu where famous residents include Gwyneth Paltrow, and just down the road in Montecito are Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Mr Sunak has denied that he plans to return to the US, but admitting so would make him a lame duck going into an election where the Tories are already languishing in the polls.

Yet when morning breaks on 5 July, the day after the election, life in California may look a lot more appealing than four years of being the opposition.

The Conservative Party has been contacted for comment.

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