- Rishi Sunak has a long standing fascination for the Golden State since he first landed at Stanford where he met his future wife and learned to “think bigger” and broaden his mindset.
It is well known that British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has a love affair with California. He met his future wife at Stanford, he proposed to her in the Golden State, and he also owns a mansion in Santa Barbara. So it was no surprise that the 43-year-old jetted off for a 10-day vacation to California with his wife Akshata Murty, and daughters Krishna and Anoushka, in what he described as “our first proper family summer holiday in a few years.” The day he departed on his trip, he said California is “very special to us,” as he met his wife there. The kids are “excited,” he added, “because I’m taking them to Disneyland.”
Apart from meeting the woman of his dreams in California, Sunak has credited the state for shaping his worldview. On June 20, 2021, he told Harry Stebbing on his 20VC podcast that Stanford taught him to “think bigger” in place of a “more incremental mindset.” He said “other than an appreciation of the weather,” California is “also a home of entrepreneurship, creativity, innovation, and those are probably the most important ways being out there in the U.S. changed my life in terms of the trajectory that I was on. It broadened my mindset considerably because you’re in that world surrounded by that culture,” he said, adding that he’s “tried to bring that into my job here.”
The prime minister’s long association with California began at age 24, when he enrolled at Stanford after graduating from Oxford and working as an analyst at Goldman Sachs. He proposed to Murty during a 2005 clifftop walk at Half Moon Bay, near to a five-star, £750-a-night Ritz-Carlton. In an interview earlier this year with Piers Morgan for TalkTV he recalled the time he and Murty dated. “We got engaged in a place called Half Moon Bay – it was a place that when we were students, we met when we were studying together in the States, and we used to walk in this area and look up at this nice fancy hotel that we never could stay in,” he said. “Then I surprised her and we did go and stay there. But before that we went for a walk along the cliffs and we were alone and that’s where I proposed.”
Four years later, in 2009, the couple married in a lavish ceremony in Bengaluru.
The couple returned to California in 2009, after working in London for several years. Here he set up a new hedge fund, and the couple “settled down to life in Santa Barbara,” the Daily Mail said. Sunak joined the board of local Boys & Girls Club, “a charity which runs after-school programs and other activities for needy children,” the report added.
However, Sunak’s open admiration of the state has also caused him ample grief. He was criticized for his green card, which also required him to file taxes here. Additionally, his wife, who is still an Indian national, had non-domiciled status in the UK and was not liable to pay taxes in the UK on overseas earnings. Sunak gave up his green card in October 2021, the Daily Mail reported, adding that his wife has since announced she will pay British taxes on her foreign income. He also received some flak in December 2021 when, as chancellor, he took a four-day trip to California to meet tech entrepreneurs, the Daily Mail said. That trip came at a time when “a surge of Covid infections was causing havoc for the UK hospitality sector,” the British daily said. Last year, his critics had speculated that had he lost the top job in the country, he would react by “jetting off for a highly paid job in Silicon Valley,” the Daily Mail reported.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that despite his connections to the state, and the criticism he faced for it, Sunak “survived” his vacation “with barely a peep of reproach, thanks in part to careful media handling. While some British papers reported the news, The Times attributed it “partly” to “Downing Street’s media management.”
The family stayed largely under the radar. The photos that surfaced in the media showed the prime minister and his family strolling along the pier. There was the visit to Disneyland where Sunak had said he was “excited” to try a “Star Wars”-themed ride. The prime minister’s family is also reported to have attended the Taylor Swift concert in Los Angeles, “putting them in the same company as thousands of families with young daughters,” The Times observed. The prime minister’s status as a “Swiftie,” was further confirmed by a TikTok post claiming that he attended a 7:00 a.m. SoulCycle Taylor Swift-themed class,
Further examining the reasons why Sunak’s trip didn’t raise many eyebrows, The New York Times goes on the say that the prime mi posters “affluence might have helped rather than hurt him,” because, “unlike some of his predecessors, who were invited by well-heeled businesspeople or celebrities, he almost certainly paid his own way.”