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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Who Is Rex Sinquefield?

Rex Sinquefield
     My copy of Chess Life arrived yesterday and the feature article was on this year's Sinquefield Cup that was held in St. Louis, Missouri back in August and won by Wesley So. It got me to wondering who "Sinquefield" is. 
     There have been prominent chess patrons in the recent past: Clare Benedict, Jacqueline Piatigorsky, Louis Statham and even Paul Masson Vineyards which sponsored a series of chess tournament back in the 1970s. But, who is Rex Sinquefield?  It turns out he's a pretty interesting guy!
     Sinquefield was born 1944 and is a billionaire financial executive active in Missouri politics. How much money he has is unknown. He claims that he himself has no idea and unlike some other super-rich, he has not been known brag about his wealth. His money comes from his business; he created some of the first index funds. Politically his pet project is to end Missouri's state income tax and replace it with an expanded state sales tax. His other areas of political concern are altering public education and accountability in government. 
     He was raised in the Saint Vincent Home for Children in St. Louis, Missouri and graduated from Bishop DuBourg High School in 1962. He received a business degree from Saint Louis University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago, where he studied under Nobel Prize winner Eugene Fama. 
     In 1973, he helped create the first Standard and Poor's index funds and in 1981 co-founded Dimensional Fund Advisors, which manages over 300 billion dollars in assets. Sinquefield founded and serves as the president of the Show-Me Institute, a public policy research organization based in St. Louis that has been labeled libertarian, conservative and free-market.
     Mr. Sinquefield is a busy man, serving as director of St. Vincent Home for Children, a life trustee of DePaul University, serving on the boards of St. Louis University, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. He is also an author. Along with Yale School of Management professor, Roger G. Ibbotson, he authored the book Stocks, Bonds, Bills and Inflation, a study of stock market returns. 
     Sinquefield became a major financial contributor to political campaigns of both political parties in Missouri politics after the Missouri legislature ended campaign finance limits in 2009. According to a 2015 Governing Magazine article, "big majorities" in both houses of the Missouri legislature have received campaign contributions from Sinquefield. 
     Much of his efforts in recent years have been devoted to changing tax policy throughout Missouri and neighboring Kansas. He advocates eliminating the state's income tax and replacing it with a more comprehensive sales tax on things like childcare, restaurants, and hotels. He financially supported the group Kansans for No Income Tax which helped the governor to significantly lower the state income tax. Apparently, it didn't work out as planned because Kansas had a 50 million dollar deficit and when the sales tax was raised it was claimed it disproportionately affected the poor. 
     He has repeatedly backed measures to repeal the city income tax of St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri which fund city services; he believes those services should be paid for by sales taxes, but voters have overwhelmingly rejected such proposals. His argument is that replacing the income tax with a sales tax would help create jobs, promote economic development and make state revenue collection less volatile. 
     In 2013 Sinquefield gave $3.865 million in personal political donations. In recent years he supported the successful effort to return local control of the St. Louis Police Department to the city itself. Since 1861 the police department had been run by a five-person board. 
     Like many super-rich, famous people and politicians, Sinquefueld has been involved in a couple of controversies. At a speaking engagement at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, he made controversial statements about the public school system when he referenced the Ku Klux Klan. He later issued an apology stating that the issues he was discussing were too critical for an ill-timed, inappropriate reference and his goal was to help all children access a high-quality education. 
     The other controversy involved the Ashley Madison Agency, a Canadian online dating and social networking service targeting people who are married or in committed relationships, but still want to date. Sinquefield's personal email address and a post office box registered to him were used to request services from the company. They were later removed from the site and Sinquefield's spokesman claimed the credit card used for the transaction was not Sinquefield's. 
     Sinquefield and his wife and children regularly donate funds to a wide variety of organizations through the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation. For example, in 2009 they gave $1 million to the University of Missouri's School of Music. The money was used to create the New Music Initiative, an effort designed to encourage young people to become composers and to support new works of music composition. 
     In 2007 he opened the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, a non-profit organization with the mission to "maintain a formal program of instruction to teach the game of chess and to promote and support its educational program through community outreach and local and national partnerships to increase the awareness of the educational value of chess."  In 2010, Sinquefield provided the initial funding to relocate the World Chess Hall of Fame to Saint Louis.
     Does he play chess? He is a Life Member of the USCF and began playing in tournaments in 2009, with his last event being in 2011. His current USCF rating is 1621.

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