With speculation over Greg Gianforte’s potential bid for governor already running rampant, the wealthy technology entrepreneur said Tuesday he is “seriously considering” running against incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.
“A lot of people have asked me. It’s an extremely big decision. I am seriously considering it, but I have not made a final decision,” Gianforte, 53, of Bozeman, told the Beacon Tuesday morning.
Gianforte, the founder of the software company RightNow Technologies, which he sold to Oracle in 2011, visited Kalispell as part of a statewide tour to 30 Montana cities in an effort to promote telecommuting as a means of retaining and attracting college graduates.
Called the “Bring Your Families Back” tour, the statewide junkets are the latest in dozens of speaking engagements that Gianforte has held across Montana, which has led to widespread speculation that he is laying the groundwork to challenge Bullock in 2016 as a potential Republican frontrunner.
With a net worth thought to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Gianforte’s campaign would be a formidable one.
David Parker, a Montana State University political science professor, said Gianforte’s growing public presence is evidence of his nascent campaign to unseat Bullock.
“Clearly this is about raising profile for a governor’s race,” Parker said in an email.
Gianforte has already won public support from U.S. Sen. Steve Daines. R-Montana, who worked under Gianforte at RightNow Technologies and said he’d be a strong candidate for public office.
After founding the software firm in a spare bedroom in his Bozeman home in 1997 – on a shoestring budget of $50,000 – Gianforte built the high-tech company into a behemoth that employed over 1,100 employees worldwide with more than $225 million in annual revenue. In 2011, he sold the company to Oracle for $1.5 billion.
Gianforte contributed heavily to Republican candidates in the 2014 elections and has also invested his wealth in grants through the Gianforte Family Foundation, which have bolstered the arts as well as anti-abortion initiatives, and has been a major contributor to the conservative Montana Family Foundation, which his wife, Susan Gianforte, chairs.
He contributed $1 million to MSU for its computer science program and three years ago co-founded CodeMontana to encourage computer-programming classes in middle schools and high schools across the state.
His lengthy public-speaking schedule is posted on his website BetterMontanaJobs.com, and last year he founded the Montana High Tech Business Alliance for technology firms.