Friday, May 20, 2011

Southern California Investor Nominated for Chair of the State's Stem Cell Agency

California Gov. Jerry Brown and the state's treasurer, Bill Lockyer, today nominated the head of a Southern California bond investment firm, Jonathan Thomas, as a candidate to become the new chairman of the $3 billion California stem cell agency.

Two other state officials, Controller John Chiang and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, have the ability to nominate candidates to succeed Robert Klein at the research organization. However, they are yet to be heard from publicly.

Brown's nominating letter was very brief, only 56 words, and said nothing about Thomas other than nominating him.

Lockyer's letter was a bit longer. He said,
"Mr. Thomas's experience as a public finance investment banker, attorney, board member of various government agencies, and board member of the Crippled Children's Society of Southern California, as well as his lifelong background, education and interest in biology and medical sciences, makes him exceptionally well-suited to fill the role of ICOC (the CIRM governing board) chair and to lead the ICOC into the next stages of its ongoing pursuit of cures through stem cell research."
Thomas is chairman and co-founder of Saybrook Capital of Santa Monica, Ca., a firm that specializes in distressed and defaulted municipal bonds, an investment category that includes state bonds. The stem cell agency is funded by California state bonds. The state has the lowest bond rating of any state in the nation.

Thomas is reportedly favored by Klein as his replacement, although Klein has denied that through a spokesman. Thomas reportedly supports the much-criticized dual executive structure at CIRM in which the president and the chairman have overlapping responsibilities. Klein also favors continuation of the arrangement, which is codified in state law by Prop. 71. The ballot measure, which created by CIRM, was written by Klein and a handful of others.

The chairman's job carries a salary range that tops out at $529,100. However, the board earlier this year indicated that it was looking at no more than $400,000 for part-time work (up to 80 percent). Klein, an attorney and real estate investment banker, worked without salary for a number of years. At one point, he asked for compensation. The board approved a $150,000 salary for half-time work.

The board is expected to act on the nominations at its June 23 meeting in San Diego.

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