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Ex-Vice President to Join MetWest

Private sector: Al Gore to become vice chairman of L.A.-based investment firm to help spread its reach overseas.


Senator, vice president, journalist--now Al Gore can add investment salesman to his resume.

Metropolitan West Financial Inc., a Los Angeles-based private investment firm with more than $50 billion under management, said Monday that the former vice president will become its vice chairman.

MetWest said Gore will help it develop its international business in Asia and Europe.

Additionally, he will help the company evaluate developing private investment funds in biotechnology and information technology, said Richard Hollander, MetWest's chief executive. And Gore will join the company's executive leadership team.

Gore's greatest value, however, will be his name and his contacts, analysts said.

"His interest in technology is well known. His thinking could prove useful in mapping an investment strategy, and his national and international connections could generate potential deals. The firm's association with Gore will undoubtedly open doors overseas," said Russ Garland, editor of the Venture Capital and Information Technology newsletter.

He's also likely to drum up investors for MetWest ventures, said Eric Flamholtz, a UCLA professor of management.

"Let's say you are trying to get the door open to some wealthy individual who might not be familiar with the investment fund. All they have to do is say, 'How about having lunch with us and Al Gore,"' Flamholtz said.

In the course of political fund-raising, Gore has met hundreds of people of the type who could be potential MetWest clients, giving him a list of contacts that would be the envy of any investment salesman, Flamholtz said.

Additionally, Gore brings his own notoriety and brand equity to the firm, which is not well known outside of the financial community.

"You can look at this as a form of advertising and marketing," Flamholtz said.

MetWest is a holding company that owns multiple investment companies, whose clients range from individuals to companies such as Microsoft Corp. to retirement funds, including CalPERs and the United Methodist Church.

Hollander declined to disclose what his company planned to pay the former vice president.

Gore said in a statement: "For nearly 25 years, I have worked on business and economic issues from the perspective of a public servant engaged in public policy. I am eager to learn more about business as an active executive of this dynamic and community-oriented company."

How much time he will spend working for the company isn't clear.

Gore will continue teaching at both Fisk University in Nashville and at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. And he will remain a research professor on family issues at UCLA.

"We didn't hire him to run a portfolio," Hollander said. "We hired him as a thinker rather than someone for the day-to-day operations."

In Washington, political analysts and onetime Gore advisors said his decision to join MetWest reveals more about his desire to earn a handsome paycheck than about his political aspirations.

"He had to go out and make some money, and he needed a job with the flexibility to continue to test the waters" for a potential 2004 presidential bid, said Charles Cook, a Washington-based political commentator. "Clearly he's very interested in running, but not dead set on running."

Marla Romash, a longtime Gore confidant and political consultant, disputed any notion that the former vice president took the job to bolster his private-sector credentials.

"At the end of the day, if Al Gore decides to run for president again, he will put everything aside and devote his heart and soul and energy into that race," Romash said.

It is not unprecedented for a losing presidential candidate to enter the private sector before launching another campaign.

Richard Nixon, who lost the presidency by a razor-thin margin in 1960 to John F. Kennedy, worked for a New York law firm before winning the White House in 1968.


Times staff writer Edwin Chen contributed to this report.

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