Monday, June 20, 2011

State Treasurer Boosts CIRM Chair Candidate with Strong Letter of Support

California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer today urged his five appointees to the board of the $3 billion state stem cell agency to vote this week for a Los Angeles bond investor as the new chairman of the research enterprise.

In a robustly worded letter, Lockyer said Jonathan Thomas, chairman of Saybrook Capital of Santa Monica, Ca., is the only candidate to have the "complete 'toolkit'" to meet the legal and other criteria for the job.

Lockyer, who holds the key to CIRM's financing, and two other state officials nominated Thomas in May. In his letter, Lockyer particularly stressed Thomas' background in state bond financing. California state bonds are the only real source of cash for the agency. Thomas' firm specializes in distressed government bonds. California's bond rating is the worst of any state in the nation.

The other candidate to replace outgoing Chairman Robert Klein is Frank Litvack, a Los Angeles cardiologist and businessman. Litvack was CEO of Conor MedSystems of Menlo Park, Ca., when it was sold in 2006 for $1.4 billion. Litvack, who has been described as a serial entrepreneuer, says he has raised tens of millions of dollars for various companies.

The election for the new chair is scheduled to be held Wednesday evening at the meeting of the 29-member CIRM board in San Diego.

If this were a normal political situation, Lockyer's letter would be considered a direct order to his appointees. Failure to comply could mean a request that the appointee resign. However, this is only the second election for CIRM chair. And the research enterprise is quite removed from the normal political environment.

Lockyer, however, runs the sale of state bonds, which are CIRM's life blood. The stem cell agency will need a fresh fund transfusion no later than next spring.

Lockyer said in his letter (see the full text below) that all – and he underlined all – the legal criteria should be given full consideration. Lockyer specifically mentioned "direct knowledge and experience in bond financing," which he also underlined and parenthetically noted "emphasis mine."

Lockyer said that the legal requirements "must govern" the selection of the chair. If the criteria are missing, Lockyer said that the chairman "simply cannot independently fulfill the oversight responsibilities of the position, much less the very significant responsibilities" of dealing with bond financing and government relations.

The state treasurer told his appointees that his letter was the first time he had contacted his appointees to board. He said he did so today only because he felt so strongly about Thomas.

Here is the text of the letters to all five CIRM board members appointed by Lockyer: Michael Goldberg, Michael Friedman, Francisco Prieto , Floyd Bloom and Robert Quint.
Lockyer Letter to ICOC Appointees Supporting Thomas 06-20-11

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