Mitt Romney’s net worth of $250 million is well-known by virtually everyone in America: after all, it was the primary campaign offensive used by the Obama team against his presidential challenger in an election run largely down wealth, and social class lines, and whom “Democrats targeted in ads and speeches as being out of touch with most Americans.” What many may not know is that staunch democrat Al Gore’s own personal wealth, has soared from virtually nothing in 1999 to a staggering $200 million according to an analysis conducted by Bloomberg.
To wit: “The former senator, who spent most of his working life in Congress, had a net worth of about $1.7 million in 1999 and assets that included pasture rents from a family farm and royalties from a zinc mine, remnants of his rural (Read more…) in Carthage, Tennessee… Fourteen years later, he made an estimated $100 million in a single month. In January, the Current TV network, which he helped to start in 2004, was sold to Qatari-owned Al Jazeera Satellite Network for about $500 million. After debt, he grossed an estimated $70 million for his 20 percent stake, according to people familiar with the transaction. Two weeks later, Gore exercised options, at $7.48 a share, on 59,000 shares of Apple Inc. stock that he’d been granted for serving on the Cupertino, California-based company’s board since 2003. On paper, it was about a $30 million payday based on the company’s share price on the day he claimed the options.”
Bottom line: “Whatever you think of Gore, one thing is indisputable: leveraging his aura as a technology seer and his political and climate work connections, Gore has remade himself into a wealthy businessman, amassing a fortune that may exceed $200 million. That’s close to the $250 million net worth of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whom President Barack Obama and Democrats targeted in ads and speeches as being out of touch with most Americans.”
Such a designation is missing when it comes to Al Gore, about whom people indeed think many things:
Albert Arnold Gore Jr., 65, is a lot of things to a lot of people. Among friends and fans, he’s the progressive Democrat who should have been president, visionary author and Internet prophet, the man who more than anyone drove climate change to the center of public consciousness.
Detractors see Gore as a limousine liberal, tiresome pedant and climate alarmist who lives a jet-setting, carbon-profligate lifestyle while preaching asceticism for everyone else.
His work and writing on global warming have earned him a share of a Nobel Prize as well as a South Park cartoon parody in which he tries to scare school kids to his beliefs with a fictitious global-warming surrogate monster known as ManBearPig.
So just how did Al manage to accumulate such a sizable net worth in just over a decade? Bloomberg summarizes how for Gore the “land of opportunity” certainly lived up to its name.
How Gore achieved this is as much about timing and luck as it is about business skills. His Apple board tenure has coincided with a 5,900 percent increase in its stock price. Current TV was a moribund “fixer-upper” when Al Jazeera stepped in to buy it at “a huge valuation,” said Derek Baine, an SNL Kagan cable analyst in Monterey, California.
Gore also had his share of flubs, most of them in his efforts at green-tech investing. An investment firm he helped to start took stakes in two carbon-trading firms that fizzled and also racked up tens of millions in losses in a solar-module maker.
There was hardly much promise in the young Gore as future consummate businessman:
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Reed Hundt, a Gore high-school friend, said of his business success.
Hundt, whom Gore helped get appointed to run Bill Clinton’s Federal Communications Commission in 1993, didn’t detect a business gene in young Al back in their days at Washington’s private St. Albans School.
Gore went on to graduate with a degree in government from Harvard University, dabble in journalism and study but never graduate from law school at Vanderbilt University. Instead, he quit to run for public office.
And yet he went on from “success” to “success”, if initially by way of inheritance.
Back in 2000, about $750,000 of his net worth was tied to two homes he and his then-wife Tipper owned in Virginia and Tennessee.
Most of the rest had been recently inherited, including an undisclosed number of shares of Occidental Petroleum Corp. left to him by his late father, Senator Albert Gore Sr., and valued at between $500,000 and $1 million, according to disclosure forms.
He’s moved up the housing ladder since then. He owns a 20- room, 10,000-square-foot antebellum mansion in Nashville’s wealthy Belle Meade neighborhood that’s mostly shrouded from view by a thicket of Southern foliage and a massive iron gate. In 2010 — weeks before the Gores announced they were dissolving their 40-year marriage — he purchased an oceanfront six- bedroom, $8.9 million villa in Montecito, California, where Oprah Winfrey and Kirk Douglas have lived.
It was all uphill from there:
His ascent into America’s 1 percent happened quickly. After losing to Bush, he had enough wealth by March 2008 to put $35 million into hedge funds and private partnerships through Capricorn Investment Group, a Palo Alto, California-based company, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission documents.
The investment company was founded by his buddy, Canadian billionaire Jeffrey Skoll, who amassed a large part of his fortune in shares he was awarded as the first president of EBay Inc.
… including books:
His best-selling climate books, “Earth in the Balance,” “An Inconvenient Truth” and “The Assault on Reason,” haven’t contributed to his wealth. Gore has long pledged any book and film money to his nonprofit, the Climate Reality Project, created in 2011 from two advocacy groups Gore founded a year earlier.
By the time of the Capricorn investment, he was already starting to rake in cash from Generation Investment Management – - a fund that incorporates “sustainability” into its investment approach. Gore co-founded GIM in 2004 with former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Managing Director David W. Blood.
Public filings show that in 2008 through 2011 London-based GIM racked up almost 140 million pounds ($218 million) in profits to be split among its 26 partners.
Gore had a string of connections and invitations to join what would turn out to be prosperous enterprises. Skoll’s Participant Media produced the 2006 Oscar-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” based on Gore’s climate work. The movie was pivotal in helping him win his share of the 2007 Nobel and claim speaker fees at $175,000 a pop.
Prior to being invited to join Apple’s board, Gore was tapped as a senior adviser to Google Inc. (GOOG) before its 2004 initial public offering and at a time when it was not yet a household word. Google won’t discuss his duties or compensation though some in Silicon Valley believe his pay there may be as rich as his Apple remuneration, which that company is required to disclose because he’s a director.
… lots of networking and holiday parties:
Gore was made a partner at Kleiner Perkins and John Doerr, an early investor in Amazon.com Inc., Intuit Inc. and Google, joined GIM’s advisory board. At Kleiner Perkins, Gore helps with investment strategies and selectively advises companies but doesn’t lead deals or take board seats on startups the firm invests in. Kleiner Perkins declined to discuss his compensation.
Gore earns his keep in Silicon Valley beyond simply attending the annual holiday party. He’s made himself available to a number of technology companies that got startup help from Kleiner Perkins. Andrew Fisher, chairman of Shazam Entertainment Ltd., a mobile music app maker backed by Kleiner Perkins, said Gore flew to London two years ago and agreed to be interviewed on stage in front of about 200 company employees and business partners.
Gore’s preparation was first rate and it was clear that “he’s tremendously well-versed” in Kleiner Perkins’s investments, Fisher said. At the presentation, “he talked about his work around the environment, leadership in small companies, decision making, sitting on the board of Apple. People were fascinated with his insight.”
… “discovering the Internet”:
They love Al Gore in Silicon Valley and why shouldn’t they? Gore never claimed, as some conservative critics have asserted, to have invented the Internet.
Still, as a Tennessee congressman and senator, he was the first national politician to see how personal computers connected to a system he popularized as the “information superhighway” would radically change the social and commercial landscape of the U.S. and the world.
He drafted the Performance Computing Act of 1991, often called the Gore Bill, which led to funding to build the system that later became the Internet.
… lots of luck:
None of this was lost on Apple when, in March 2003, Steve Jobs personally asked Gore to join the board. An Apple press release about the appointment was a techie love fest. “Al is an avid Mac user and does his own video editing in Final Cut Pro,” Jobs said.
Apple was trading at about $7.50 a share when Gore accepted the Apple board seat. The company’s stock closed at $449.98 on May 3 in New York. The escalation of his options alone would have made him rich.
Gore’s profiting from the Al Jazeera sale is another example of luck, timing or both. Gore and partners that included Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle, Hyatt Legal Services founder Joel Hyatt and San Francisco money manager Richard Blum bought the predecessor company for $70 million in 2004.
Re-launched as Current TV, Gore said at the time he wanted to create a “transformational” network. It would, like YouTube, thrive on youthful viewer input, be an antidote to Fox News and a liberal competitor to MSNBC.
… all leading to Mogul Al replacing Activist Al, when Current TV was sold to Al Jazeera:
The transaction also raised eyebrows because Gore, who has for years inveighed against fossil fuels and their role in climate change, sold the network to a company funded in part by oil-rich Qatar. Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show television program, asked in January, “Can mogul Al Gore coexist with activist Al Gore?”
Gore defended the sale on the grounds that, among other things, Al Jazeera has “the highest quality, most extensive, best climate coverage of any network in the world.” It’s a position Gore’s been forced to defend repeatedly along the tour for his latest book “The Future: the Six Drivers of Global Change.”
Cable TV analysts, meanwhile, were abuzz over the $500 million payout. Current had been seeking buyers for a while, aware that Time Warner might soon pull the plug, but had not found any takers until Al Jazeera stepped forward.
However, Gore’s stunning rise to riches has not been without its ptifalls:
GIM has assets under management of about $8.5 billion. Its investment strategy and returns have been impressive enough that Britain’s Environment Agency asked it to manage 7.2 percent of its 1.6 billion-pound investment portfolio through 2014. That’s up from 4.8 percent in 2009, according to documents filed with Britain’s securities regulator.
At times the company’s green investing approach hasn’t worked. In 2008, with optimism that a Democrat-controlled Congress would establish carbon controls and an international climate treaty would be extended, GIM bought a 9.6 percent stake, in Camco International Ltd., a manager of projects that reduce greenhouse gases.
By early 2010, GIM had upped its stake in the company now known as Camco Clean Energy Plc to 18.6 percent, according to documents. By October of that year, with Republicans in the House saying no to climate legislation and Kyoto Protocol talks stalled, shares in Camco were taking a beating. GIM dumped its stake. Neither company would comment on GIM’s actions.
In another instance, GIM took a 10 percent stake in the Chicago Climate Exchange, set up in 2003 by former derivatives guru Richard Sandor to take advantage of what the exchange’s founders hoped would be a government-mandated price on carbon. The exchange ran into the same headwinds as Camco and was sold to Atlanta-based IntercontinentalExchange Inc. in May 2010 for $581 million. It was later shut as carbon prices fell to all- time lows.
GIM would only say that neither Camco nor Chicago Climate Exchange were profitable investments.
All of which has naturally led to accusations of being a sophist preacher and an opportunistic “climate profitter”:
“Al Gore is like the preacher touting his moral purity and superiority,” Kish said. “Yet it turns out that heeding his preachings is directly linked to his financial interests.”
The jury is still out on Gore. One thing, however, that is obvious is that despite his lamentations…
Gore said in a May 1 interview with Bloomberg Television that American democracy has been “hacked” by the influence of money in politics and that he hopes activist investors will continue to exert influence on corporations globally to act in a responsible way.
… the same corporations that Gore managed to schmooze his way into and influence courtesy of levered money and on grounds idealistic, charismatic or otherwise, have been quite profitable for the 65 year old former Vice President.
But perhaps the bottom line is that we simply “don’t know Al“:
During a 2009 House hearing, Tennessee Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn tackled Gore on the issue of whether he had become a “climate profiteer” by betting on companies that might hugely benefit from his advocacy. Gore’s response: “Congresswoman, if you believe that the reason I have been working on this issue for 30 years is because of greed, you don’t know me.”
Which, it appears, is just how Mogul/Activist/hypocrite Al likes it:
Gore declined to be interviewed for this story.
Thus, sadly, we will only be left to speculate, muse and wonder just what is the driving force behind the New Normal “inheritance to riches” American Dream.