Plane Crash In Panama Takes Life Of Successful Pacificor CEO

Wednesday, December 26th 2007, 6:19 pm
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Michael Klein, the CEO of hedge fund manager Pacificor LLC, was killed in a plane crash in Panama over the weekend, cutting short a successful career that included a $450 million deal with Yahoo Inc.

Klein was CEO of eGroups Inc., the world's largest group e-mail communication service, when he sold it to Yahoo at the peak of the dot-com boom.

``Michael lived an inspired life,'' said Seal Potts, a friend and business associate of Klein. ``We know what a successful businessman he was, but when you think of a businessman in a power suit, you just don't get a picture of Michael Klein.''

Klein, 37, who favored bow ties and was known for his generosity, seemingly had a golden touch when it came to growing businesses. He founded two technology companies in the 1990s.

One was Transoft Networks, a leading supplier of storage area networking software, which was acquired by Hewlett Packard Co. in May 1999.

His involvement with Santa Barbara-based Pacificor started in 1999 when he became its largest investor, the company Web site states. He became CEO in 2001 and acquired the firm in 2002.

On Wednesday, the hedge fund management company named portfolio manager Andy Mitchell, 44, to succeed Klein. Mitchell and Klein together ran the company's $600 million portfolio.

Before joining Pacificor in 2004, Mitchell was co-portfolio manager of high-yield and convertible funds at ING. He previously served as senior high-yield analyst at Merrill Lynch Asset Management, where he and his team managed more than $6 billion in bonds, according to Pacificor's Web site.

Pacificor is a medium-sized hedge fund manager with assets valued at about $600 million. It targets institutional and wealthy private investors who must ante up a minimum of $1 million.

Industry analyst Evan Rapoport of said most hedge fund managers handle portfolios of less than $100 million.

Pacificor is a private company and its specific investments are not public record.

However, Kurt Benjamin, vice president of business development at Pacificor said the company focuses on investing in distressed debt.

For a number of hedge funds, distressed debt includes investments in overdue credit card and subprime mortgage debt or notes from companies in trouble, Rapoport said.

On Tuesday, rescuers found Klein and two other victims in the wreckage of a Cessna 172 high on the jungle-laden flanks of the Baru volcano, about 270 miles west of Panama City.

Aviation authorities said the cause of the crash was not yet known, but RPC radio reported that witnesses saw the plane flying at a very low altitude around noon Sunday amid buffeting winds.

Also killed were Talia Klein, 13, the daughter of Michael Klein, and Edwin Lasso, 23, the pilot of the plane.

The lone survivor was family friend Francesca Lewis, 12, who apparently suffered a broken arm and hypothermia, her mother, Valerie Lewis, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Boquete, a resort village miles away from the crash site.

Klein was on vacation with the two girls at an eco-resort he owns in the Central American nation.

Klein was responsible for Pacificor's investment strategy and operations.

Potts said he had the ability to judge character and find good people to work with.

``He chose people to be around him who had a strength that mirrored his own,'' she said.