Who Is Tech Tycoon-Turned Climate Activist Mike Cannon-Brookes

·3-min read

(Bloomberg) -- Atlassian Corp. co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes’s day job has catapulted him up the Bloomberg Billionaires Index since the software firm’s US listing in 2015. It’s what he calls his night and weekend work that’s turned him into a climate crusader.

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The campaign by Australia’s fourth-richest person to halt the breakup of utility AGL Energy Ltd. is just one of a raft of initiatives and investments he’s launched in recent years intended to speed up action to curb emissions, and aimed at seizing opportunities as the world decarbonizes.

What has his career involved?

The 42-year-old set up Atlassian, a supplier of work-collaboration software, with friend Scott Farquhar after graduating from university, funding it with credit cards, so that -- Cannon-Brookes has claimed -- he’d never have to wear a suit to work. The Sydney-based firm went public in New York in Dec. 2015. Cannon-Brookes remains co-chief executive officer and is chairman of Australian investment firm Blackbird Ventures.

How has he campaigned for climate action?

Cannon-Brookes’s activism came into public view in 2017 when he challenged Elon Musk via Twitter to help fix power failures in South Australia by installing a 100 megawatt Tesla Inc. battery plant -- at the time the world’s largest -- and do it within 100 days, or complete the work for free. The project’s success is seen as having strengthened the case for wider adoption of energy storage batteries.

With iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest, Cannon-Brookes signed up to an early investment round in Sun Cable -- a A$30 billion ($21.9 billion) project which aims to export solar power from Australia’s Outback to Singapore via a 2,600-mile high-voltage undersea cable.

He previously tangled with former Prime Minister Scott Morrison over Australia’s commitment to renewables, and also backed plans to create one million jobs in green energy in the nation.

Is AGL his first activist campaign?

In 2019, his personal office Grok Ventures joined other investors in BHP Group in demanding the world’s top miner suspend ties with industry groups seen as hindering climate change goals.

Earlier this year, Grok joined a A$20 billion Brookfield Asset Management-led takeover offer for AGL, which was rejected. The partners planned to quickly replace coal plants with clean energy and storage capacity, enabling the utility to hit net zero emissions by 2035.

Is he likely to go after other companies?

It’s possible, as Australia has other major polluters that have been criticized for a laggard approach on emissions reduction.

Grok has also invested in firms including home energy efficiency company Sealed, plant-based meat alternative producer Fable Food Pty. and solar technology developer SunDrive Solar.

Cannon-Brookes has pledged to give A$1.5 billion directly to climate causes.

What else does he invest in?

He’s bought up luxury real estate across his home state of New South Wales, including multiple waterfront mansions in Sydney.

Other notable corporate investments have been in sporting clubs. Cannon-Brookes is a minority owner of Utah Jazz basketball club and purchased a stake in the South Sydney Rabbitohs, making him one of the rugby league team’s most prominent supporters, alongside actor Russell Crowe and Australia’s new PM Anthony Albanese.

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