Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Race for the Chair: Litvack Discusses "Black Box" of Bond Financing

SAN DIEGO, Ca. – Los Angeles cardiologist and businessman Frank Litvack tonight made a final pitch to directors of the California stem cell agency to become the next chairman of the $3 billion research effort.

In remarks prepared for delivery, Litvack stressed his business experience during which he said he raised hundreds of millions of dollars. He noted that his enterprises were all high risk ventures and were not "back-stopped by the faith and credit of the state of California," a reference to the state bond funding behind CIRM.

He also reviewed his work in developing new products and his dealings with the federal agencies that regulate them.

Litvack reiterated much of what he has told the board previously, including his commitment to serve as more of an oversight chairman rather the engaging in day-to-day management. Prop. 71, which created the stem cell effort, set up a much-criticized dual executive arrangement with overlapping responsibilities for the chairman and president.

Litvack also addressed the "black box" issues raised by state Treasurer Bill Lockyer and others concerning the need for bond financing experience. (See here and here.)

Litvack said,
"In the spectrum of financial instruments, state bonds are not considered complicated. In fact, they are among the most simple."
He reviewed the current state financial situation and how state bonds work. Come next spring, Litvack said,
"Should the unthinkable happen, as it occasionally does, and there is no (state) budget by next year, then CIRM will need to assume the mentality of a start-up venture and get creative....One might consider a private placement (of bonds) if permitted. As with any form of financing, it is not the mechanics that is rate-limiting. Rather it is the ability to clearly articulate the vision to the prospective investors."
Other new proposals surfacing in Litvack's remarks included:
  • CIRM-sponsored meetings between venture capitalists and promising stem cell companies to help generate much-needed funding for the businesses.
  • Possibly selling industrial development bonds, which are aimed at building businesses in a particular region, to help finance clinical trials.
For more on Litvack's background and previous statements, see here and here and here.

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