Person

C. Frederick Taylor

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C. Frederick Taylor (Fred Taylor) is a reclusive California billionaire and one of three founders of the TGS Management hedge fund. In July 2023 the Orange County Business Journal described TGS as “an extremely secretive quant hedge fund” and that there had been “next to no mention of the firm or its founders” after a May 2014 profile in Bloomberg Businessweek. Taylor has also been identified as a major donor to a pair of left-leaning donor foundations: the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund and the Sequoia Climate Foundation. Wellspring was originally known as the Matan B’Seter Foundation. “Matan B’Seter” is a Hebrew phrase meaning “anonymous gift.” 1 2 3

The Sequoia Climate Foundation (also known as the Sequoia Climate Fund) is donor to left-leaning climate advocacy groups that was created in 2020 as a spinoff from the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund. A February 2023 report in Inside Philanthropy declared Sequoia a “new giant climate change philanthropy” and speculated that it was a “good guess” that Fred Taylor was the major donor. During its first two years in operation, Sequoia’s largest total grants went to groups such as the European Climate Foundation, the Energy Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, The Sunrise Project, the Windward Fund, and the World Resources Institute (WRI). Sequoia grants during the first two year also included multi-million-dollar cumulative donations to groups known to oppose carbon free nuclear power, such as WRI, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, the Sierra Club Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. 4 5 6

Background

C. Frederick Taylor (Fred Taylor) is a California billionaire and one of three founders of the TGS Management hedge fund. A July 2023 report by the Orange County Business Journal estimated Taylor’s net worth at the time to be at least $1.2 billion, but potentially “multiple billions.” 7

A May 2014 profile of Taylor and his TGS partners in Bloomberg Businessweek reported that Taylor obtained an economics degree from Haverford College and was a “clean-cut East Coaster” when he moved to California in the early 1980s to work in the finance industry. The firm’s name, TGS, is derived from the first letter of the last name of each of the three founders: Taylor, David Gelbaum and Andrew Shechtel. 8

The May 2014 report also stated Taylor was then 54 years old. 9

The Bloomberg Businessweek report revealed in 2014 that the TGS partners were the donors behind a group of charitable trusts that held combined assets of $9.7 billion ($12.8 billion in 2024 dollars). This report estimated this was then “bigger than the Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations combined” and “one of the largest pools of philanthropic funding in the U.S.” The reporter also found that “someone had taken elaborate steps to make sure no one figured out where this money came from, using layers of company subsidiaries to obscure its origins” using companies and law firms from multiple states. 10

Through 2014, according to Bloomberg, the trusts funded by the TGS founders had already given more than $1.8 billion in grants (nearly $2.4 billion in 2024 dollars), including $700 million for Huntington’s disease research. Taylor was personally identified with funding the Landmine Survivors Network. Bloomberg also reported that another $1 billion ($1.3 billion in 2024) had been sent by the TGS founders to “pools such as the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program, which distributes funds for thousands of donors, making the ultimate destination of the TGS partners’ money impossible to determine.” Vanguard is one of the nation’s largest donor-advised funds. 11

As of August 2023, Taylor was reported as a resident of Irvine, California. That month, a business report for a house that sold for $25 million in “Shady Canyon,” an Irvine community of 800 homes, noted that Taylor and novelist Dean Koontz were residents. 12

TGS Management

During the 1980s Fred Taylor, David Gelbaum and Andrew Shechtel were each working for Princeton-Newport Partners, a California firm founded in 1969 that Bloomberg Businessweek reports was “the world’s first quantitative hedge fund.” Princeton-Newport operated successfully until 1987, when it was raided by federal agents. The head of the firm and four other employees were indicted on tax fraud and racketeering charges. 13

Taylor, Gelbaum and Shechtel were not accused of wrongdoing during the incident. Charges against the five Princeton-Newport employees were subsequently dropped, but not before investors had pulled their money from the firm. The TGS partners created their firm in 1989 by putting to work many of the former Princeton-Newport staff and drawing back some of the old investors. 14

Sources told Bloomberg that TGS used a “statistical arbitrage” trading system that exploits the “tendency of stocks that recently fell to rise, and stocks that recently rose to fall.” The system was so successful that the trio swiftly refunded all initial outside investors. This allowed them to “focus on multiplying their own funds in privacy.” 15

In July 2023 the Orange County Business Journal described TGS as “an extremely secretive quant hedge fund with offices in Irvine.” Referencing a May 2014 profile of TGS and its founders by Bloomberg Businessweek, the OCBJ reported there had been “next to no mention of the firm or its founders since the Bloomberg report . . .” 16

This is how the author of the 2014 Bloomberg story described his visit to one of the TGS facilities: 17

Before dawn one day in March, I peered through a black metal fence into the compound in Irvine where TGS keeps banks of computers. The place was on a dead-end street between a sandy creek bed and a carwash. A row of pines flanked a cluster of timber and glass buildings. From somewhere inside the compound, machinery whined. 18

Noting the very “low profile” kept by TGS and its founders, the 2014 Bloomberg story noted during the 1990s they had briefly been identified in the British press as a “secretive U.S. vulture fund” after TGS purchased shares in Scottish investment funds and then agitated for “changes or liquidation.” 19

Left-leaning Philanthropy

Fred Taylor has been reported as a major donor to two left-leaning foundations: the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund and the Sequioa Climate Foundation.

Wellspring Philanthropic Fund

The Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, formerly known as the Matan B’Seter Foundation, was created in 2001 as part of an elaborate and secretive network of grantmaking organizations funded by three hedge fund billionaires: Andrew Shechtel, David Gelbaum and C. Frederick Taylor. 2021 Philanthropy News Digest described their intent as to “disguise” donations and “avoid almost all public scrutiny.” 22 “Matan B’Seter” is a Hebrew phrase meaning “anonymous gift.” 23

For most of 2001 through most of 2017 Wellspring/Matan B’Seter gave grants totaling nearly $900 million. The final recipients for $795 million (88.3 percent) of this funding are not known; through 2015, Wellspring gave nearly all annual grants to two of the nation’s largest donor-advised fund providers that are not required to disclose how individual donors direct them to give the money away. 24

In 2017, Wellspring began selectively donating directly to some organizations, allowing a window into its ideological priorities, and $28.5 million (11.6 percent of the 2017 total) was given to 56 left-of-center advocacy organizations. At least $4 million of these grants referenced voter engagement and outreach projects at left-of-center organizations such as NEO Philanthropy and New Venture Fund. “DC Leaks,” a group suspected by the United States Government of being a front for Russian intelligence,25 released a memo hacked from the George Soros-backed Open Society Foundations in 2016 that portrays OSF as one participant in a $65.4 million left-of-center voter engagement effort that allegedly occurred prior to the 2012 election, with Wellspring as a $10 million contributor.26 27

Contemporaneous with the creation of Matan B’Seter, Taylor and two of his brothers established Wellspring Advisors, which Philanthropy News Digest characterized as a “consulting firm for anonymous donors.” 28 For most of 2001 through most of 2017 Wellspring Advisors received $124.2 million in fees from Wellspring Philanthropic Fund (a.k.a. Matan B’Seter), 13 percent of total contributions put into the fund during that period. 29 In January 2018, Wellspring Advisors became an arm of the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund. 30

Sequoia Climate Foundation

The Sequoia Climate Foundation (also known as the Sequoia Climate Fund) is donor to left-leaning climate advocacy groups that was created in 2020 as a spinoff from the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund. In a February 2023 report, Inside Philanthropy declared Sequoia was a “new giant climate change philanthropy” and identified Sequoia’s likely benefactor to be California billionaire C. Frederick Taylor. In 2014 Taylor was identified as a major donor to Wellspring. 31 32

During its first two years in operation, Sequoia’s largest total grants went to groups such as the European Climate Foundation, the Energy Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, The Sunrise Project, the Windward Fund, and the World Resources Institute (WRI). Sequoia grants during the first two year also included multi-million-dollar cumulative donations to groups known to oppose carbon free nuclear power, such as WRI, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, the Sierra Club Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. 33 34

Inside Philanthropy reported that Sequioa “keeps its donors’ identity tightly under wraps” and that it “declined to provide details” about the main donors when asked. However, the report also stated that it was possible to “make a pretty good guess” that Sequoia’s main and potentially sole donor was probably California billionaire C. Frederick Taylor: 35

Sequoia’s benefactor appears to be C. Frederick Taylor, a low-profile hedge fund billionaire. He was listed in 2021 tax filings as the foundation’s board chair, and has long been a Wellspring trustee. Taylor was revealed as the donor behind what is now Wellspring by a 2014 Bloomberg article, which named him as one of a trio of donors who controlled more than $13 billion in philanthropic funds. That said, contributions to Sequoia have come so far through an anonymous LLC, with an apparent pay-as-you-go approach. 36

Taylor was listed as the chair of the board of Sequoia in each of its first two IRS filings. Also, all of the funding put into Sequoia during the first two years—a combined total of $387 million—was sent from Twenty-One Holdings LLC. Prior to the creation of Sequoia, Twenty-One Holdings had been a major donor to Wellspring. A 2014 report in Bloomberg Businessweek identified Fred Taylor as a board member and donor to Wellspring, along with two of his brothers. Inside Philanthropy reported that John Taylor, brother of Fred, had “long been” the president and public face of Wellspring. 37 38 39 40

References

  1. Ghermezian, Shiryn. “Dozens of Jewish Charities Supported by Newly Revealed ‘$13 Billion Mystery Angels.’” The Algemeiner. May 27, 2014. Accessed July 18, 2019. https://www.algemeiner.com/2014/05/27/jewish-charities-heavily-favored-by-newly-revealed-13-billion-mystery-angels/
  2. “OC’s Wealthiest 2023: C. Frederick Taylor.” Orange County Business Journal. July 25, 2023. Accessed May 20, 2024. https://web.archive.org/web/20230726081122/https:/www.ocbj.com/special-report/2023-oc-wealthiest/c-frederick-taylor/
  3. Kavante, Michael. “There’s a New Giant in Climate Change Philanthropy. Here’s Everything We Know So Far.” Inside Philanthropy. February 9, 2023. Accessed May 17, 2024. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:4v6UyEb52g4J:https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2022/2/9/theres-a-new-giant-in-climate-change-philanthropy-heres-everything-we-know-so-far&cd=14&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
  4. Sequoia Climate Fund. 2021 IRS Form 990. Accessed May 20, 2024. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/854095972/202342879349100304/full
  5. Sequoia Climate Fund. 2020 IRS Form 990. Accessed May 20, 2024. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/854095972/202232879349101003/full
  6. Kavante, Michael. “There’s a New Giant in Climate Change Philanthropy. Here’s Everything We Know So Far.” Inside Philanthropy. February 9, 2023. Accessed May 17, 2024. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:4v6UyEb52g4J:https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2022/2/9/theres-a-new-giant-in-climate-change-philanthropy-heres-everything-we-know-so-far&cd=14&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
  7. “OC’s Wealthiest 2023: C. Frederick Taylor.” Orange County Business Journal. July 25, 2023. Accessed May 20, 2024. https://web.archive.org/web/20230726081122/https:/www.ocbj.com/special-report/2023-oc-wealthiest/c-frederick-taylor/ 
  8. Mider, Zachary R. “The $13 Billion Mystery Angels.” Bloomberg Businessweek. May 8, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2024.  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-05-08/three-mysterious-philanthropists-fund-fourth-largest-u-dot-s-dot-charity
  9. Mider, Zachary R. “The $13 Billion Mystery Angels.” Bloomberg Businessweek. May 8, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2024.  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-05-08/three-mysterious-philanthropists-fund-fourth-largest-u-dot-s-dot-charity
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  11. Mider, Zachary R. “The $13 Billion Mystery Angels.” Bloomberg Businessweek. May 8, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2024.  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-05-08/three-mysterious-philanthropists-fund-fourth-largest-u-dot-s-dot-charity
  12. “RECORD $25M HOME SALE IN SHADY CANYON.” Orange County Business Journal / Official Partners. August 20, 2023. Accessed May 20, 2024. https://officialpartners.com/blog/record-dollar25m-home-sale-in-shady-canyon
  13. Mider, Zachary R. “The $13 Billion Mystery Angels.” Bloomberg Businessweek. May 8, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2024.  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-05-08/three-mysterious-philanthropists-fund-fourth-largest-u-dot-s-dot-charity
  14. Mider, Zachary R. “The $13 Billion Mystery Angels.” Bloomberg Businessweek. May 8, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2024.  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-05-08/three-mysterious-philanthropists-fund-fourth-largest-u-dot-s-dot-charity
  15. Mider, Zachary R. “The $13 Billion Mystery Angels.” Bloomberg Businessweek. May 8, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2024.  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-05-08/three-mysterious-philanthropists-fund-fourth-largest-u-dot-s-dot-charity
  16. “OC’s Wealthiest 2023: C. Frederick Taylor.” Orange County Business Journal. July 25, 2023. Accessed May 20, 2024. https://web.archive.org/web/20230726081122/https:/www.ocbj.com/special-report/2023-oc-wealthiest/c-frederick-taylor/
  17. Mider, Zachary R. “The $13 Billion Mystery Angels.” Bloomberg Businessweek. May 8, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2024.  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-05-08/three-mysterious-philanthropists-fund-fourth-largest-u-dot-s-dot-charity
  18. Mider, Zachary R. “The $13 Billion Mystery Angels.” Bloomberg Businessweek. May 8, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2024.  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-05-08/three-mysterious-philanthropists-fund-fourth-largest-u-dot-s-dot-charity
  19. Mider, Zachary R. “The $13 Billion Mystery Angels.” Bloomberg Businessweek. May 8, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2024.  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-05-08/three-mysterious-philanthropists-fund-fourth-largest-u-dot-s-dot-charity
  20. Ghermezian, Shiryn. “Dozens of Jewish Charities Supported by Newly Revealed ‘$13 Billion Mystery Angels.’” The Algemeiner. May 27, 2014. Accessed July 18, 2019. https://www.algemeiner.com/2014/05/27/jewish-charities-heavily-favored-by-newly-revealed-13-billion-mystery-angels/
  21. Ghermezian, Shiryn. “Dozens of Jewish Charities Supported by Newly Revealed ‘$13 Billion Mystery Angels.’” The Algemeiner. May 27, 2014. Accessed July 18, 2019. https://www.algemeiner.com/2014/05/27/jewish-charities-heavily-favored-by-newly-revealed-13-billion-mystery-angels/
  22. “Anonymous Donors of More Than $1 Billion Revealed.” Philanthropy News Digest. May 9, 2014. Accessed July 18, 2019. https://philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/anonymous-donors-of-more-than-1-billion-revealed
  23. Ghermezian, Shiryn. “Dozens of Jewish Charities Supported by Newly Revealed ‘$13 Billion Mystery Angels.’” The Algemeiner. May 27, 2014. Accessed July 18, 2019. https://www.algemeiner.com/2014/05/27/jewish-charities-heavily-favored-by-newly-revealed-13-billion-mystery-angels/
  24. Wellspring Philanthropic Fund (Matan B’Seter Foundation). 2016 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2014 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2013 IRS Form 990.

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    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2006 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2005 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2004 IRS Form 990.

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    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2001 IRS Form 990.

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    All accessed July 22, 2019. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/223692921

  25. Hattem, Julian. “Thousands of Soros docs released by alleged Russian-backed hackers.” The Hill. August 15, 2016. Accessed July 22, 2019. https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/291486-thousands-of-soros-docs-released-by-alleged-russia-backed-hackers
  26. Wellspring Philanthropic Fund (Matan B’Seter Foundation). 2016 IRS Form 990. Accessed July 22, 2019. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/223692921
  27. “New Thinking on 2012 Election and Beyond.” Preserved by Capital Research Center. Accessed July 22, 2019. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/07/Bhargava-Stern-Memo-to-Soros-2011.pdf
  28. “Anonymous Donors of More Than $1 Billion Revealed.” Philanthropy News Digest. May 9, 2014. Accessed July 18, 2019. https://philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/anonymous-donors-of-more-than-1-billion-revealed
  29. Wellspring Philanthropic Fund (Matan B’Seter Foundation). 2016 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2014 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2013 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2012 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2011 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2010 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2009 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2008 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2007 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2006 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2005 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2004 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2003 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2002 IRS Form 990.

    Matan B’Seter Foundation (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund). 2001 IRS Form 990.

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    All accessed July 22, 2019. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/223692921

  30. “Wellspring Philanthropic Fund: About Us.” Global Philanthropy Project. Accessed July 18, 2019. https://globalphilanthropyproject.org/about-us/gpp-members/wellspring/
  31. Kavante, Michael. “There’s a New Giant in Climate Change Philanthropy. Here’s Everything We Know So Far.” Inside Philanthropy. February 9, 2023. Accessed May 17, 2024. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:4v6UyEb52g4J:https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2022/2/9/theres-a-new-giant-in-climate-change-philanthropy-heres-everything-we-know-so-far&cd=14&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
  32. Mider, Zachary R. “The $13 Billion Mystery Angels.” Bloomberg Businessweek. May 8, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2024.  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-05-08/three-mysterious-philanthropists-fund-fourth-largest-u-dot-s-dot-charity
  33. Sequoia Climate Fund. 2021 IRS Form 990. Accessed May 20, 2024. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/854095972/202342879349100304/full
  34. Sequoia Climate Fund. 2020 IRS Form 990. Accessed May 20, 2024. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/854095972/202232879349101003/full
  35. Kavante, Michael. “There’s a New Giant in Climate Change Philanthropy. Here’s Everything We Know So Far.” Inside Philanthropy. February 9, 2023. Accessed May 20, 2024. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:4v6UyEb52g4J:https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2022/2/9/theres-a-new-giant-in-climate-change-philanthropy-heres-everything-we-know-so-far&cd=14&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
  36. Kavante, Michael. “There’s a New Giant in Climate Change Philanthropy. Here’s Everything We Know So Far.” Inside Philanthropy. February 9, 2023. Accessed May 20, 2024. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:4v6UyEb52g4J:https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2022/2/9/theres-a-new-giant-in-climate-change-philanthropy-heres-everything-we-know-so-far&cd=14&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
  37. Sequoia Climate Fund. 2021 IRS Form 990. Accessed May 20, 2024. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/854095972/202342879349100304/full
  38. Sequoia Climate Fund. 2020 IRS Form 990. Accessed May 20, 2024. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/854095972/202232879349101003/full
  39. Mider, Zachary R. “The $13 Billion Mystery Angels.” Bloomberg Businessweek. May 8, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2024.  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-05-08/three-mysterious-philanthropists-fund-fourth-largest-u-dot-s-dot-charity
  40. Kavante, Michael. “There’s a New Giant in Climate Change Philanthropy. Here’s Everything We Know So Far.” Inside Philanthropy. February 9, 2023. Accessed May 20, 2024. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:4v6UyEb52g4J:https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2022/2/9/theres-a-new-giant-in-climate-change-philanthropy-heres-everything-we-know-so-far&cd=14&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
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