Allen invests in Charlottesville– again


G. Moffett Cochran V
FILE PHOTO BY LAUREN BROOKS

Microsoft co-founder/billionaire Paul Allen lost $60 million the first time he put money in a Charlottesville-based company. Undeterred, he's sinking more cash into another venture with local ties: Silvercrest Asset Management, a New York company co-founded in 2002 by UVA alum and Staunton native G. Moffett Cochran V, who opened an office here in 2005.

Allen and FedEx CEO Frederick Smith invested in the notorious dot.bomb online retailer Value America, which went belly up in 2000. According to Internetnews.com, Allen sank $65 million into the venture that came to exemplify dot.com excesses before the bubble burst.

Allen's Vulcan Capital, which handles his sizable portfolio, bought an undisclosed minority share in Silvercrest. "They put us through rigorous due diligence," says Cochran. "The fact they're going with us is very validating to us."

Silvercrest now handles $8 billion in rich people's assets, and the average client has $30 million in assets that need to be managed. Cochran hopes his firm can capitalize on the fact that Vulcan's investment people are "plugged in all over the world, and they have a wealth of relationships here and abroad."

Cochran was not aware of Allen's previous investment fiasco in Charlottesville– "You're dealing with a guy who has a vast portfolio," he notes– but says there's another Charlottesville connection. UVA law alum, Lance Conn, "oversees the totality of Paul Allen's investments," and still has fond memories of his alma mater, according to Cochran.

Forbes ranks Allen, with assets of $18 billion, as #19 among the wealthiest, down from #6 last year. His yacht, Octopus, is the largest in the world. But alas, Charlottesville doesn't have a harbor.

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5 comments

Maybe Allen can dredge up his own harbour in Charlottsville!

Patience, Cliff. With sufficient global warming the Chesapeake Bay will be lapping at the Keswick foothills. Today there's a Castle Hill Farm - tomorrow Castle Hill Marina.

Octopus was last seen in March 2006 in Barbados' harbor with all attachments. What a vessel! What opportunites to play with all the toys, vehicles, boats, aircraft. Google it up for a messmerizing trip.

Hope Allen does better with Silvercrest than he has done with everything else. I am investor in Charter Communications. Lance Conn has not done diddley for the stock, which is a lot lower than when he started a few years ago.

Maybe that's why Allen has bought Silvercrest. Conn and his team do not appear to have any investment expertise. Paul needs to wake up and find a real investment head.

Sorry to you UVA alum. I know there are some good ones out there, but I have actually dealt with Lance Conn. I see I'm not the only one with the last observation. Lance: it's *you* who obviously don't know what you are doing. No one else. Lucky for you that Paul Allen and his sister are either too distracted or too thick to realize your near total lack of ability and experience in investing or cable operations. I wonder if the Allen's realize that Paul's fortune has continued to dwindle while you spend his money flying across the globe to seek the advice of others (because you realize you are incompetent), at a time that so many other investment funds like Harvard are clocking 20%+ gains.