by Brian Dumaine, Fortune
Ward McNally never intended to become a booster for clean tech. The great-great-great-grandson of the founder of the 159-year-old Rand McNally map company, he helped sell the family business in 1997. McNally, 43, is now the co-founder and managing partner of McNally Capital, a Chicago firm that advises wealthy families on their private equity investments. His focus is making money, not being green.
But one day in 2010 a billionaire client who’d made his fortune in oil came to McNally with a problem. The client had invested in a clean-tech company to hedge his family’s core source of wealth: fossil fuels. “We started talking about clean tech,” recalls McNally, “and although he thought it was a great investing opportunity, he complained about how complicated it would be for his family to enter the space.” The billionaire lamented that he lacked the depth of knowledge to make sophisticated investment decisions about deals in areas like smart-grid infrastructure and solar and wind power, and he didn’t want to take the time and incur the expense to build his own large team of professionals. The client asked what could be done. And that’s when McNally suddenly had a big idea. “I thought,” he says, “why not build a network of billionaire clean-tech investors who could share knowledge, share capital, and share deals to achieve their goals?”…
The existence of the Clean Tech Syndicate is just one example of an important, emerging trend in the world of energy finance: America’s ultrawealthy class has begun to put its money to work in clean tech in a big, big way.