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Media stars, business magnates lead exodus from California to southern states

Residents seek lower costs and less state oversight.

November 27, 2020 10:45am

Updated: November 30, 2020 10:06pm

Multiple business leaders and media enterprises in 2020 are making plans to leave California for southern states, where local governments exert a lighter touch on business matters.

Among the media companies to announce such a move this year was the Daily Wire, the conservative website founded in 2015 with Ben Shapiro as its editor in chief.

The digital news site announced in September that it would be moving its headquarters from Los Angeles to Nashville. Shapiro cited California's political environment as the motivating factor for the move.

California "has turned into a hellhole," he said in a video announcing the move. The notoriously rapid-fire Shapiro called the decision "specifically, and really only, due to the crappy governance of the state."

Shapiro, who grew up in California, told Fox News host Laura Ingraham earlier this year that high taxes, the threat of more tax hikes, "absolutely crappy public services," the "undermining" of police forces, and rampant homeless problems in the state were among the reasons the Wire was moving to the south.

"Bad governance has consequences," he said.

Daily Wire Chief Operating Officer Jeremy Boering told media at the time of the announcement that roughly 80% of the site's 75 employees were expected to move with the company.

The Wire has not been the only company or business leader dissatisfied with California's political climate.

Elon Musk, the CEO of electric car manufacturer Tesla, Inc., signaled his intent in the spring to move that company's headquarters east and south of California.

Citing COVID-19 lockdown orders in Alameda County, in Northern California, Musk tweeted in May: "Frankly, this is the final straw. Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately."

In the months since, Tesla appeared to shelve its immediate ambitions to move, though Musk has still left the door open for a move.

"There's no question that our headquarters will remain in California for the short term," he told Automotive News late in the summer. "Long term, we'll have to wait and see."

'A little bit more freedom'

In July, Joe Rogan — the host of the successful podcast "The Joe Rogan Experience" — announced that, like the Daily Wire, he too would be leaving California due to what he said were the chronic problems currently facing the state.

Announcing his intent to move to Texas, Rogan cited the need for "a little more freedom" as one of the motivating factors. He also cited what he said was "the traffic … the economic despair … [and] the homelessness problem that's accelerated radically" in Los Angeles over the last decade.

Rogan in May had already teased the possibility of his leaving the state.

"If California continues to be this restrictive, I don't know if this is a good place to live," he said, referring to the state's COVID-19 lockdowns. "I might jet. I'm not kidding. I'm not kidding, this is silly. I don't need to be here."

Rogan has not revealed whether or where he has moved, though he reportedly purchased a house in Austin earlier this year. In August, he posted on Instagram a shot of a new podcast studio being built in Texas.

Lesser-known but still locally prominent businesses have also announced their intent to leave the state. Paul Petrovich, a longtime developer out of Northern California, has stated his intent to move to Austin to avoid California's proposed wealth tax.

The tax bill, which has stalled in the state's assembly, would if passed "impose an annual tax at a rate of 0.4% of a resident of this state's worldwide net worth in excess of $30,000,000."

Petrovich told the San Francisco Business Times that his decision to move was motivated "not [by] frustration as much as need and not wanting to be taken advantage of."

"When you really don't have a choice after working for 40 years, you have to do this. It's an evacuation," he said, adding that he was "not a lone wolf" on the issue and that numerous other wealthy individuals in California were planning to move as well.

In addition to concerns over the state's tax climate, California's government has been the subject of significant criticism for its COVID-19 policies, which have been among the strictest and longest-lasting in the country since going into effect in the spring. Lockdown measures in the state have reportedly driven many residents to move elsewhere.

Facebook groups such as "Conservatives Leaving California" and "Life After California," meanwhile, boast a combined tens of thousands of members detailing their efforts, plans and successes in leaving the state. "Life After California," for instance, has gained nearly 50,000 members after being created in January of this year.

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