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Gore Invests $35 Million for Hedge Funds With EBay Billionaire

Date: Thursday, March 6, 2008
Author: Miles Weiss, Bloomberg.com

March 6 (Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore left the White House seven years ago with less than $2 million in assets, including a Virginia home and the family farm in Tennessee. Now he's making enough to put $35 million in hedge funds and other private partnerships.

Gore invested the money with Capricorn Investment Group LLC, a Palo Alto, California, firm that selects the private funds for clients and invests in makers of environmentally friendly products, according to a Feb. 1 securities filing. Capricorn was founded by billionaire Jeffrey Skoll, former president of EBay Inc. and an executive producer of Gore's Oscar-winning documentary film on global warming.

Since losing the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush, Gore, 59, is best known for focusing attention on climate change through his book and movie, ``An Inconvenient Truth,'' which helped him win a Nobel Peace Prize. Gore's newfound wealth resulted, in part, from speaking engagements and ties to Silicon Valley firms with soaring stock market values, such as Google Inc. and Apple Inc.

``Gore got a lot of support from Silicon Valley when he ran for president because they knew the Internet was one of his primary concerns,'' said Tony Coelho, a former congressman and investment banker who served as chairman of Gore's 2000 campaign.

``It's very legit that these people would pursue him'' after he left office, Coelho said, adding that Gore received Google and Apple stock options before their shares ``went into the stratosphere.''

Kalee Kreider, a spokeswoman for Gore and his wife, Tipper, declined to comment on the hedge-fund investment or how Gore has made his money.

`Private Citizen'

``He is a private citizen, and as a private citizen he has never commented on his private finances,'' said Kreider, who works out of Nashville, Tennessee.

Gore donated his proceeds from the global-warming book and movie to his Alliance for Climate Protection, Kreider added.

John Jonson, chief operating officer at Capricorn, also had no comment.

Gore's investment, disclosed in a private-placement filing at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, was made through Carthage LP. The partnership, formed in December, has the same name as the ex-vice president's home town in Tennessee.

Skoll, 43, founded Capricorn after deciding in late 2001 that he wanted to diversify his wealth, at the time comprised primarily of EBay stock. The firm began taking on a few outside clients last year, according to SEC filings.

Father's Estate

In the last personal finance report he filed as vice president, Gore disclosed on May 22, 2000, that the value of his assets totaled between $780,000 and $1.9 million. In addition, Gore listed an interest in his father's estate that included Occidental Petroleum Corp. stock worth as much as $1 million.

He and Tipper Gore released tax returns for 1998 showing they earned $224,376 that year, less than half the income of President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, news reports at the time said.

Now Gore charges a $175,000 speaking fee and has a net worth ``well in excess'' of $100 million, including pre-public offering Google stock options, according to an article in Fastcompany.com last year. Kreider said the speaking fees vary and Gore doesn't disclose them.

Gore has served as a senior adviser to Mountain View, California-based Google since February 2001, shortly after leaving public office. Google spokesman Jon Murchinson said in an e-mail: ``We have not provided comment on if or how we compensate Mr. Gore in his role as an advisor to Google.''

Metropolitan West

The former vice president also served as vice chairman of Metropolitan West Financial Inc., a money manager run in part by former Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. executives, starting in 2001.

He co-founded Current Media Inc., a cable television and Internet company, in 2002 and is listed as its executive chairman in a January SEC filing for the company's initial public offering. It said he earned $1 million in salary and bonus last year, and owned 3.7 million shares of company stock.

Gore joined Apple's board in 2003 and co-founded London- based Generation Investment Management in 2004. Last November, he became a partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

Capricorn, in managing Skoll's fortune -- estimated at $4.2 billion by Forbes magazine last March -- primarily allocates money to different private partnerships, including hedge funds and energy and real-estate funds.

Skoll Foundation

One of Capricorn's clients, the Skoll Foundation, had almost $264 million, or 78 percent of its assets, invested in more than 75 partnerships at June 30, 2006, according to its most recently available tax filing with the Internal Revenue Service.

The funds included Eric Mindich's Eton Park Capital Management LP, Ralph Whitworth's Relational Investors LLC, and Arthur Samberg's Pequot Capital Management Inc.

``They don't put all their eggs in one basket,'' said Homi Vazifdar, a managing director at the Canyon Group, of Larkspur, California, who is familiar with Capricorn's investment style.

Stephen George, Capricorn's chief investment officer, previously worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. specializing in helping technology clients develop expertise in e-commerce. New York-based Goldman underwrote San Jose, California-based EBay's initial public offering.

To contact the reporter on this story: Miles Weiss in Washington at mweiss@bloomberg.net