The Quercus Trust is an estate planning fund that was set up by millionaire mathematician turned philanthropist, David Gelbaum, who made his money off of stock prediction algorithms that he formulated while still a teenager. The firm has holdings in a large number of greentech companies and the primary interest seems to be solar power.
Although the amount that has been invested by the trust has been quite substantial to say the least (approximately $400million spread out over about 40 companies) Quercus has remained very low profile for many years. The firm does not issue press releases and interviews with its founder, Mr. Gelbaum, are extremely rare. This apparent secretiveness has caused many people to speculate about the nature and workings of the company.
However, while the lack of publicly available info on the company can seem somewhat suspicious, and the elusiveness often raises questions (Even their webpage only reveals a mysterious picture of acorns.) the real reason for the low profile may very well be the extremely private nature of founder, David Gelbaum.
Mr. Gelbaum seems to take the term ‘low-profile’ to a whole new level, and, until recently, he had successfully remained off the radar and out of the spotlight. Although he frequently donated millions to charitable and conservational organizations, he always did so anonymously and recipients of the funds were asked to sign confidentiality agreements.
It wasn’t until February 8, 2010 when he decided to accept the position of CEO of Entech Solar (one of the solar power companies that Quercus Trust has invested in) that he decided that taking on a more public role is what would best benefit the company.
Albeit, David Gelbaum’s idea of ‘public’ is what other would call somewhat reclusive. He has only had a handful of official interviews to date, and some of those were over the phone. He does occasionally make public appearances, but these are always low-key and he avoids all the publicity hoopla that many other company execs use to boost their businesses. Though widely circulated last year on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, rumors that Gelbaum had appeared showing off a new muscular physique in his own insanity workout review were quickly squashed by his publicist. No copies of the supposed video seem to exist online.
So, while the Quercus Trust’s inner workings are shrouded by a veil of mystery, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are doing something wrong. In fact, some people feel that the lack of attention-whoring is refreshing, and they can see that it allows Gelbaum to focus on his investments and continue to finance, and be involved in, many promising new start up companies that are focusing on renewable energy and sustainable resources. There are even unconfirmed reports he might venture into the education area by acquiring and giving the hooked on phonics program a makeover. However, that is mere speculation at the moment.
Many of his investments could be viewed as him supporting science experiments, which is not usually a very sound investing decision. These projects could go either way, but if they turn out as hoped, Mr. Gelbaum could be looking at very large returns in the not too distant future.
Here is rough list of the companies the Quercus Trust has holdings in:
- Solar Enertech
- Ascent Open Energy
Smart Grid and Energy Services:
- Standard Renewable
- Environmental Power
Batteries, Storage and Electronics:
- Electro Energy
Buildings and Efficiency:
- China Solar
- Energy Focus
- Lighting Power
Food and Water:
- Thermo Energy
- World Water
These companies make up the majority of Quercus Trust’s portfolio.