Venture capitalist Patricia M. Cloherty started her career from scratch


When in 1969, Patricia M. Cloherty was offered a job at a venture capital firm, she had to ask friends what the then little-known business was all about. She concluded it was a David vs. Goliath affair, using small amounts of capital to fund startups that could take on corporate giants.

As a former Peace Corps volunteer, she had aspired to work for an international development agency, but found such institutions unlikely to send a woman overseas. So she decided to accept the offer of a research position in a venture capital firm run by Alan Patricof.

Although she lacked financial expertise, Mr. Patricof said, “being smart was a pretty good benchmark.”

Within a few years, she became a partner in the firm of Mr. Patricof, later known as Apax Partners. She served as Cabinet Chair in the 1990s. Her career also included federal government appointments by Presidents Jimmy Carter, George HW Bush, and Bill Clinton. She ended her career managing a fund investing in Russian companies.

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As a venture capitalist, she immersed herself in businesses as diverse as lead smelting and bull semen distribution. In the 1970s, she ran Childcraft Education Corp., a distributor of educational toys. She has also invested in pharmaceutical and electronics companies.

Venture capital allowed him to travel the world and call most of his own shots. “I never thought of it as if I was working for someone,” she said in a 2011 oral history recorded for the National Venture Capital Association. “I thought of it as painting with my own paint.”

She was more interested in start-up companies than in private equity investments in established companies, which she described as “buying leveraged potato chip factories.”

Ms Cloherty, whose hobbies included visiting casinos and climbing mountains, died on September 23 at her home in Miami. She was 80 years old and was undergoing treatment for respiratory problems.

Patricia Mary Cloherty, the second of four children, was born July 2, 1942 and grew up primarily in Pollock Pines, California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her father, an immigrant from Ireland, worked in construction and as a lumberjack. His Canadian-born mother was a real estate agent and librarian.

Patricia Cloherty remembers being taken to racetracks by one of her grandmothers when she was little. “It’s my upbringing,” she said in the oral history. She earned money by picking pears and cooking for the woodcutters.

At the San Francisco College for Women in the early 1960s, she studied Spanish literature and earned a bachelor’s degree. She later served in the Peace Corps in Brazil, where she recalled that her duties included helping farmers castrate pigs.

She went on to earn a master’s degree in philosophy and Latin American studies at Columbia University. During these studies, she lived at International House among scholars from around the world. It helped her build a global network of friends, which came in handy when she traveled the world looking for entrepreneurs to fund.

President Carter temporarily removed her from venture capital by appointing her Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration. After leaving Washington, she started an investment company with her husband, Daniel Tessler. This marriage ended in divorce. She went back to work for Mr. Patricof.

Under President George HW Bush, she served on an advisory board on small business issues. In 1995, the Clinton administration appointed her director of the American Investment Fund in Russia, a program designed to stimulate private enterprise in Russia. Ms. Cloherty was then president of this fund and general manager of its management company. She kept an apartment in Moscow for years.

As an investor in Russian companies, his strategy was to avoid the oil industry, agriculture and anything considered strategic for the government. Among other things, it has invested in consumer products and financial services, including mortgages and credit cards.

His formula for teaching credit to Russians: “You put up a sign: Get a credit card. They come and say, ‘What is a credit card?’ And you tell them. You start with the ruble equivalent of $10 or $15. If they repay, it increases. »

Mrs. Cloherty is survived by one brother and one sister. Before moving to Miami in 2018, she had a country home for decades in Garrison, NY She also kept an apartment in Manhattan.

She served as president of the National Venture Capital Association and served on numerous boards. “Zip” was perhaps his favorite verb. She always announced her intention to go somewhere, whether the destination was across town or halfway around the world. “I’ve always been kind of a busy beaver,” she says.

Write to James R. Hagerty at [email protected]

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