Monday, August 08, 2011

New Stem Cell Agency Chair Discloses More than $3 Million in Investments

The new chairman of the California stem cell agency, Jonathan Thomas, last week reported that he has more than $3 million in investments, including holdings in an enterprise that invests in "distressed debt" and in a consulting firm that teaches businesses how to "out-behave the competition."

Thomas' statement of economic interests -- required by state law – disclosed that the bond financier has more than $1 million invested in Saybrook Capital of Santa Monica, Ca., a firm that he co-founded. Thomas is currently a partner in the firm, which deals with "distressed debt," including government bonds. He has said he will continue to be involved with the business while he also serves the part-time (80 percent) chairman of CIRM at a salary of $400,000.

In his statement, Thomas also reported that as of taking office on June 23 he had a more than $1 million investment in the Saybrook Opportunity Fund and another $1 million-plus holding in LRN, a Los Angeles-based firm that provides "legal/ethical" consulting.

LRN was founded in 1994 by Dov Seidman, an attorney and author of the book "How." On the firm's web site, Seidman said he started LRN "with a powerful vision that the world would be a better place if more people did the right thing." Since then, the firm says it has consulted with 500 companies including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, eBay, 3M and Walt Disney.

We asked Thomas about he came to be involved in LRN. Scott Tocher, counsel to the CIRM chair, replied via email that Thomas "knew the gentlemen who founded the company and thought it was a very interesting business model and on that basis made his investment."

Thomas' holdings also include shares in 71 different companies for a total that could range from $206,000 to $1.4 million. Most of the holdings were less than $10,000 each. Eight ranged between $10,001 and $100,000. The state disclosure law requires reporting of investment values only in broad ranges.

Thomas disclosed holdings in four pharmaceutical companies: Allergan, Gilead Sciences, Pfzer and Watson Pharmaceuticals. The investments ranged from $2,000 to $10,000. A similar investment was reported in Thermo Fisher Scientific, which makes stem cell research equipment.

Pfizer is deeply involved in stem cell research, including a $100 million commitment in the United Kingdom. The Pfizer effort includes a collaboration with Peter Coffey at University College of London. Last fall, CIRM directors awarded Coffey $4.9 million to lure him to UC Santa Barbara. Coffey is also involved in a joint $24 million research program backed by CIRM and the UK.

Thomas reported income of between $10,001 and $100,000 each from Saybrook and CSI Management Limited. Tocher said CSI is the contracting affiliate for CSIP Group of Los Angeles, a private equity firm with a primary focus on China.

Thomas' statement shows that he had a more than $100,000 share in the gross income of Saybrook Capital. Tocher said that state law required the disclosure "regardless of whether or not JT actually received any income. As is typical of private equity firms, not all income is distributed for a variety of reasons (reserves, co-investment, etc.)."

The statement also disclosed Thomas' $3,239 investment in Advanced Cell Technology of Santa Monica, Ca., a human embryonic stem cell research firm. Thomas last month sold the ACT stock at what he said was a "significant loss."

All CIRM board members are required to file economic disclosure statements, which are used to help determine whether they can vote on matters that come before the governing board or even take part in discussion. The disclosure statements for board members and top executives at CIRM can be found here. The agency began posting them on its web site just this spring. Thomas' statement is not yet posted but you can find it below. Jonathan Thomas Statement of Economic Interests Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:51 AM

    Organically, I like this disclosure statement. I can't remember the last time I saw anything handwritten that was even tangentially related to government (in this case, CIRM). This Thomas gent feels real, that he's not hiding.

    Helvetica, Times Roman, Courier. Bleh. Handwriting? Handwriting makes me feels good, makes me feel like trusting.