Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Beltway Money Man: Jon Kutler

Being buried alive can change your view of making money.

Prior to December 2005, Jon B. Kutler fit the profile of the hard-charging investment banker. A Harvard business school grad and founder of a successful aerospace and defense boutique, he had worked on hundreds of deals. Long hours and constant travel were his companions--and fond ones, given the money he made.

One afternoon in December 2005, though, Kutler found himself under six feet of snow, buried by an avalanche on the last run of the day during an Austrian ski vacation. It took 45 seconds for him to pass out and 20 minutes for rescuers to dislodge his head. By the time he reached the hospital, his body temperature was 89 degrees.

"Your life flashes before your eyes," says Kutler, 50, of those 45 seconds of consciousness trapped beneath the snow. "None of my thoughts related to investment banking."

So in March 2006, Kutler turned a new chapter. He quit the banking outfit he had started, sold in 2002 to New York's Jefferies Group, and turned his attention to private equity. He put up $70 million of his own money to found Admiralty Partners.

But in contrast with today's private equity environment, where big players are raising billions and closing massive deals, Kutler had no intention of building another financial empire. "I rarely travel," he says, "except for vacations."

Out too are the long hours at the office. In their place, Kutler says he substituted more time doing charitable work with his wife and more attention to their two teenage kids. A U.S. Naval Academy grad who majored in engineering, he became a trustee of the California Institute of Technology. He also helps oversee the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA's center for robotic research of the solar system, which Caltech manages.

The scaled-back schedule means less time for scrutinizing deals. With Admiralty, Kutler gets plenty of pitches sent his way but invests in just one or two a year. His targets are usually companies with sales in the range of $25 to $250 million.

Full story at Forbes.com