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Over the past year, novice investors learned the hard way that the stock market can be a tricky place to make money. Yet judging from their recent financial disclosure filings, San Diego County elected officials -- especially county supervisor Dianne Jacob -- have been holding their own.

But not all of them can tell the same happy story Jacob can.

One supervisor, Ron Roberts, got into trouble when he couldn't resist dabbling in the stock of Neon Systems, the Texas software maker controlled by Padres owner John Moores, which earlier this year brought an end to the career of San Diego city councilwoman Valerie Stallings. Roberts bought and sold Neon last year, and, judging from public records, came out a big loser.

Both Stallings and Roberts have in the past counted themselves as personal and political friends of multimillionaire Moores, and both have suffered career setbacks as a result of their association. Stallings was required to resign from the city council after it became known she had received unreported gifts from the baseball magnate. The mayoral campaign of Roberts suffered when it was revealed that the county supervisor had taken trips on a jet belonging to Moores.

Though both Roberts and Stallings appear to have ultimately lost money in their Moores-related dealings, their ill fortune in the stock market has not been shared by Roberts's fellow supervisors.

According to Jacob's report, filed earlier this month, the value of her stock portfolio at the end of last year was worth at least $978,000, and possibly as much as $8.79 million. The range of values is due to the way the law allows elected officials to disclose each of their holdings in one of four categories: $2000 to $10,000; $10,001 to $100,000; $100,001 to $1 million; and greater than $1 million. None of the supervisors said they held any single investment over a million, but several reported individual holdings of over $100,000.

For instance, Jacob, the runaway investment champion of the board, reported she owned between $100,000 and $1 million each of America Online, EMC Corp., Merck Pharmaceuticals, IBM, Ford, Apple Computer, and Amgen. She reported she held between $10,000 and $100,000 of stock in each of Intel, Disney, Time-Warner, Cisco, Citigroup, Dell, and Oracle.

She also reported holding a stake between $2000 and $10,000 in Leap Wireless, a Qualcomm spinoff that, among other ventures, is building a cell-phone system across the border in Tijuana. The Leap Wireless board features such local luminaries as Padres owner and venture capitalist John Moores and UCSD chancellor Robert Dynes. A number Jacob's board colleagues also reported holding shares of Qualcomm and Leap.

Jacob's holdings included $10,000 to $100,000 worth of Lucent Technologies, the troubled telecom spinoff of AT&T, which was one of the original partners in the so-called Pennant Alliance. In October 1999, the board of supervisors unanimously voted to award the alliance with a $644 million, multiyear contract to run the county's data processing and telecommunications systems. In September of last year, Lucent spun off Avaya Communication, which replaced Lucent as the communications vendor in the Pennant Alliance.

Coming in a distant second to Jacob in the board's investment derby is District 1 supervisor Greg Cox of Chula Vista, who reported that his family investments, including some separately owned by his wife, total between $336,000 and $3.2 million. His largest reported holding is a stake, between $100,000 and $1 million, in EMC, a Fortune 500 company making computer-storage devices. EMC was also one of Jacob's $100,000 to $1 million investments.

Cox's reported holdings of between $10,000 and $100,000 included interests in Medtronic, a pacemaker manufacturer; Home Depot; Sun Microsystems; and JDS Uniphase. He reported that his wife had a separate interest in Qualcomm of between $10,000 and $100,000. Like Jacob, Cox also reported that he owned between $2000 and $10,000 worth of stock in Leap Wireless.

Third on the list is District 5 supervisor Bill Horn, who valued his stock holdings between $88,000 and $630,000. Horn's investments included interests of between $2000 to $10,000 in Leap Wireless; $10,000 to $100,000 in Qualcomm; and $10,000 to $100,000 in Microsoft.

In addition, Horn said he owned interests in two public companies close to the heart of Padres owner Moores. The supervisor reported owning $2000 to $10,000 in Peregrine Systems, the Del Mar-based computer-software outfit of which Moores is chairman of the board and owns a large personal stake. Horn also reported owning between $2000 and $10,000 worth of a company called Bindview Software, in which Moores's JMI Equity Fund III was an original investor and to the board of which Moores was elected last summer. Horn also said he owned between $10,000 and $100,000 in each of Qualcomm and General Electric.

In the supervisors' investment rankings, after Horn comes boardmember Pam Slater, with a stock portfolio valued between $40,000 and $400,000. She reports holding just two stocks, Qualcomm and Leap Wireless, with an interest of between $10,000 and $100,000 in Leap and in holdings of between $30,000 and $300,000 in Qualcomm.

Picking up the rear is county supervisor Ron Roberts, whose reported stock interests ranged between $12,000 and $120,000, including an interest ranging between $2000 to $10,000 in Motorola and one between $10,000 and $100,000 in Qualcomm. But the most noteworthy Roberts holding is in Neon Systems, the Houston-based software outfit that last year proved the undoing of former San Diego councilwoman Valerie Stallings.

According to Roberts's disclosure filing, on February 18, 2000, he acquired Neon stock valued at between $10,000 and $100,000. On September 26 the same year, Roberts divested himself of the stock, which he continued to value at between $10,000 and $100,000. According to market records, during the time of the reported purchase, Neon was selling at about $35 a share. By the time Roberts reportedly sold the stock, it had a market value of approximately $12 a share, representing a considerable loss if he paid full market value for his original investment.

Stallings got into trouble after she acquired her Neon stock, through the aid and advice of Moores, during the company's initial public offering of $15 a share on March 5, 1999. She reported she sold that holding three weeks later, on March 31, when the shares were near their all-time peak of $50, for an estimated profit of 270 percent. Her office later announced, although it could not be independently verified, that she had cleared $7600 on an initial investment of less than $5000. That same day, Stallings voted in favor of moving ahead with a taxpayer-funded downtown stadium for the Padres.

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