Thomas Kaplan

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Thomas S. Kaplan
Born 1962 (age 53–54)
Residence New York City, New York
Nationality United States
Ethnicity Jewish[1]
Alma mater B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Oxford University
Occupation Investor, Conservationist, Philanthropist
Net worth Increase US $ 1.3 billion
(March 2013)[2]
Spouse(s) Dafna Recanati
Children Three
Parent(s) Jason Kaplan
Lillian Jean Kaplan

Thomas S. Kaplan is an American entrepreneur, natural resources investor, philanthropist and art collector. He is the chairman and chief investment officer of The Electrum Group LLC, a New York City-based investment, advisory and asset management firm with a principal focus on the natural resources sector.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in New York City, Kaplan was raised in Florida. In his youth, he developed a passion for wildlife conservation (which he later revisited as the founder of the field conservation group Panthera), but found himself adept in the study of history. He studied history at Oxford University and earned Bachelor's, Master's and Doctoral degrees in the subject.[3][4] He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Malayan counterinsurgency and the manner in which commodities influence strategic planning.[5] While earning his PhD, Kaplan worked as an analyst covering Israeli companies that were publicly traded in the U.S.[5] On a business trip, he met his future wife, Dafna Recanati (the daughter of Israeli investor Leon Recanati), who had attended the same boarding school as Kaplan.[5] Dafna's mother, artist Mira Recanati, introduced him to Israeli investor Avi Tiomkin, who hired him as a junior partner in 1991. Kaplan had impressed Tiomkin by correctly predicting Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait several years before it transpired.[5] When Tiomkin decided to concentrate his investments solely in Israel in 1993, Kaplan moved on to execute his own entrepreneurial ventures.[5]


Inspired by Marc Faber, who held that precious metals were insurance against the "monetary foolishness" of central governments, Kaplan focused on natural resources investing.[5] In 1993, he founded Apex Silver Mines to capitalize on the improving supply/demand fundamentals of metals.[6] While he was chief executive officer and chairman of Apex, Kaplan's team discovered and financed the San Cristobal deposit in Bolivia, now one of the largest producers of silver and zinc in the world.[7][8] Kaplan retired from Apex Silver at the end of 2004 to focus on his new exploration projects.[9]

In 2003, a company related to Kaplan became the largest investor in African Platinum Plc (then known as Southern African Resources Plc), enabling it to explore and develop one of the largest platinum group metals projects in South Africa. In 2007, Kaplan sold his position in African Platinum as part of a transaction in which the company was acquired by Impala Platinum Limited, at a valuation of $580 million.[10]

Also in 2003, Kaplan co-founded Leor Exploration & Production LLC, which became the fastest-growing privately held hydrocarbon exploration and production company in the United States. In 2007, Leor’s natural gas assets were sold to EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. for $2.55 billion.[11]

Kaplan first began investing heavily in gold in 2000. Since the sales of African Platinum and Leor in 2007, Kaplan has focused on the Electrum Group. Its exploration arm, Electrum Ltd., which he co-founded with Dr. Larry Buchanan, owns a diversified international portfolio of gold exploration assets. Its other entities hold significant interests in several publicly traded companies, including NovaGold Resources Inc.[12] and Gabriel Resources Ltd.,[13] two companies that own several of the largest proven gold resources in the world.[14] Among its private interests, the Electrum Group is the controlling shareholder of Sunshine Mining and Refining Corporation, which owns the Sunshine silver mine in Idaho, the most prolific silver mine in US history,[15] as well as the Los Gatos silver-zinc deposit in Mexico, which it is developing in partnership with Dowa of Japan.[16]

His view on gold has not changed.[17] On February 25, 2009, he commented in Marc Faber’s Gloom, Boom & Doom Report: “Some will say that $800 gold seems expensive. I would suggest the contrary: that a few years from now, sub-$1000 gold will feel like a true gift... The forced liquidation of leveraged positions of all kinds in late 2008 and early 2009 has presented an extraordinary opportunity to build long gold positions at low prices… [I]t should not be a surprise to see gold set new highs against all currencies, including a strong dollar, and an acceleration of the most enduring bull market in the world.”[18]

In a January 2011 op-ed in the Financial Times’ Market Insights column, Kaplan discussed the Prudent Man construct as a tool to evaluate the benefits and risks of investing in gold. In that piece, he explained that a variety of factors – including the supply of and demand for gold, the devastation of financial industry and government balance sheets and the fact that gold is not tied to another person’s ability to pay – are causing asset managers and general banks to begin readmitting “gold back into the select group of prudent asset classes.” According to Kaplan, these developments suggest “interesting times ahead” for those who own the precious metal. Therefore, “the Prudent Man rule may well be golden indeed.”[19]

As a leading investor in gold, Kaplan is credited with correctly predicting that gold prices would increase. His investment strategy and commitment to gold led Bloomberg Businessweek to refer to him as "Gold's Evangelist."[5] In a May 2010 profile piece in the Wall Street Journal, Kaplan said, “I’ve reached a point where I feel the only asset I have confidence in is gold,” adding, “You’ve got a perfect storm with no apparent solution. If the world does well, gold will be fine. If the world doesn’t do well, gold will also do fine … but a lot of other things could collapse.”[20]

Kaplan's robust presence in the gold market was recognized in a December 2010 Wall Street Journal article, which described Kaplan along with other investors including John Paulson, David Einhorn and John Burbank. The article stated that Kaplan is “making a bigger wager on gold than almost any investor,” noting that he believes junior miners provide the “greatest leverage to a bull market” and that the world is “entering an era defined by the scarcity value of great precious-metals assets.”[21]


Kaplan and his family support a number of philanthropic and conservation causes in the United States and the developing world. Kaplan serves as the Executive Chairman of Panthera Corporation, a charity which he and his wife co-founded in 2006. Panthera is devoted to preserving the big cats and their ecosystems around the globe and has been recognized as a leading force in felid conservation.[22][23] Conservationist Doug Tompkins has referred to Panthera as "the foremost big cat conservation organization in the world," with National Geographic saying Panthera "represents the most comprehensive effort of its kind in wildcat conservation."[24]

Among its many endeavors, Panthera created and maintains the largest protected jaguar corridor in the Americas.[25][26] In particular, the work of Panthera’s CEO, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, and Kaplan to balance the preservation of the jaguar corridor in Brazil with sustainable ranching was the focus of a January 2011 profile by CBS's 60 Minutes.[27] In that piece, Kaplan outlined his thesis for utilizing sustainable ranching and community development to protect the apex predator and its environment: "There is no better way to stop poaching than to make the local community say: 'Hey, wait a minute, our children have medicine and education because of the jaguar.' When you show that, you have won their hearts and their minds. Then you have won the war."[28] For his work as an environmentalist, Kaplan was the recipient of the "Hero of the Year Award" by the IWFF in 2012.[29]

Further to their commitment to ensuring the long-term survival of the big cats, Kaplan and his wife Dafna helped establish a globally recognized felid conservation program at Oxford University in collaboration with Dr. David MacDonald. In 2009, the couple endowed the Recanati-Kaplan Center at Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, the WildCRU, and the university's Postgraduate Diploma in International Wildlife Conservation Practice, which offered young conservationists from developing countries access to training at Oxford. In November 2011, Oxford's WildCRU was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher Education in recognition of WildCRU's outstanding work in wildlife and environmental conservation.[4][30]

The Kaplans also founded the Orianne Society, a historic effort focused on the conservation of the eastern indigo snake and its habitat, the last remaining long-leaf pine forests of the Southeastern United States.[31] As part of this effort, the Kaplans created the Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve in Georgia through the purchase and donation of 2,500 acres of the snake’s winter habitat.[4] In recognition for their work in wildlife conservation, in 2014 the Kaplans were awarded the New Species Award, and the naming of the newly discovered Orianne's Tree Snake, by the African Rainforest Conservancy.[32]

The Kaplans personally pay for 100 percent of the administrative costs of the Orianne Society and Panthera so that all donations go directly to the field to fund projects. Kaplan's goal, however, is "to make both of his charities sustainable beyond his own largesse." Regarding his wildlife conservation work with big cats and snakes, Kaplan said, "If you want psychic gratification, one of the greatest ways is to know that you’ve made a real contribution to saving a species from blinking out during your lifetime."[4]

On June 1, 2014, in what Kaplan described as "a turning point for global cat conservation,"[33] environmental philanthropists from China, India, the United Arab Emirates and the United States formed an unprecedented new Global Alliance with Panthera, committing an initial $80 million over the next ten years to conserve the world's wild cats and their ecosystems. The initial partners with the Kaplans are Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi; Jho Low, Director of Jynwel Charitable Foundation Limited of Hong Kong; Hemendra Kothari, Chairman DSP Blackrock India and the Wildlife Conservation Trust. The Crown Prince's personal commitment to the Panthera alliance is managed through the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, established by the Crown Prince in 2009. The Global Alliance’s commitment provides cornerstone funding for Panthera's new $200 million initiative for wild cats.[34][35]

Kaplan is also active in community philanthropy. After having served as its president (2009-2012) and chairman of the board of directors (2012-2015), Kaplan serves as chairman of the Talks and Conversations committee of the 92nd Street Y, a prominent Jewish community and cultural center in New York City. His wife and Robert Gilson conceived of the Recanati-Kaplan Program for Excellence in the Arts, which funds scholarships based on artistic merit for children and teens to study with the 92Y's renowned School of the Arts.[36]

In medicine, the Kaplans have funded the Lillian Jean Kaplan Renal Transplantation Center at the University of Miami as well as a variety of prizes and grants for medical science research.[37] In 2012, the Kaplans created the Daisy and Paul Soros/Recanati-Kaplan Family Assistant Professor in Preventive Cardiology, a position held by Dr. Bassem Masri.[38]

Kaplan donated $4.8 million to the Eternal Jewish Family[39] and $36 million to the Lillian Jean Kaplan Foundation, named after Kaplan’s mother.[40]

He is a member of the International Council at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs[41] and the Council on Foreign Relations.[42]


In 2014 Kaplan was decorated as a member of the Order of the Légion d'Honneur of France. In presenting the decoration, the French Ambassador to the United States François Delattre said of Kaplan: "Through your multifaceted life and your support for an incredible array of causes, I believe you are the very definition of a game changer and Renaissance man - a young Renaissance man: as Chairman of the Y, as an environmentalist in Brazil, as an entrepreneur, a historian, a philanthropist, an art collector and a politically engaged individual."[43][44]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Dafna Recanati Kaplan, daughter of Israeli artist Mira Recanati and businessman Leon Recanati. They have three children.[5][45] His nephew is businessman Guma Aguiar.[46][47]


  1. ^ Forbes Israel: Jewish Billionaires - Profile of Thomas Kaplan April 14, 2013 (in Hebrew)
  2. ^ Forbes: The World's Billionaires - Thomas Kaplan March 2013
  3. ^ "Thomas S. Kaplan". Panthera. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Tom Kaplan: Billionaire King Of Cats". Forbes. 8 October 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "Gold's Evangelist". Bloomberg Businessweek. 26 August 2010. 
  6. ^ "Is silver the glitter of yesterday? Or is it the new ingredient of the reasonably prudent portfolio?". The New York Times. 19 February 1998. 
  7. ^ "Silver Strike!". Forbes. 8 July 2000. 
  8. ^ "Sumitomo to lift San Cristobal production". Mining Journal. 3 June 2009. 
  9. ^ "Big picture man". Mining Journal. 8 October 2004. 
  10. ^ "Southern African Resources Raises £400,000 Through Private Placing". St Brides Media & Finance Ltd. 12 September 2003.  line feed character in |publisher= at position 26 (help)
  11. ^ "EnCana buys Leor Energy's interests in Deep Bossier gas fields for 2.55 bln usd". Thomson Financial. 5 November 2007. 
  12. ^ "NovaGold Announces US$60 Million Financing with Electrum Strategic Resources". NovaGold. 2 January 2009. 
  13. ^ "Gabriel gets help from Wall Street investor". The Globe and Mail. 28 August 2011. 
  14. ^ "NovaGold Resources (NG): Lundin's Look at Gold". 8 April 2010. 
  15. ^ "Silver Opportunity Partners LLC Concludes Acquisition of the Assets of Sterling Mining Company". Business Wire. 12 May 2010. 
  16. ^ "Execution of a Partner Agreement of Los Gatos Project in Mexico" (PDF). DOWA Holdings Co., Ltd. 18 December 2014. 
  17. ^ Thomas Kaplan (24 May 2010). "Gold Will Keep Going Up". Forbes. 
  18. ^ Kaplan, Thomas (25 February 2009). "Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ... I Have a Hot Tip for You". The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report. 
  19. ^ Thomas Kaplan (18 January 2011). "Brace for a ‘perfect storm’ in gold". Financial Times. 
  20. ^ "A Billionaire Goes All-In on Gold". The Wall Street Journal. 22 May 2010. 
  21. ^ "Gold: How Einhorn, Paulson and Other ‘Smart Money’ Play it". The Wall Street Journal. 17 December 2010. 
  22. ^ "Q&A with the Chairman". Panthera. 
  23. ^ "From Making a Killing to Saving a Species" (PDF). Science 313 (5791): 1226–1227. 1 September 2006. doi:10.1126/science.313.5791.1226. 
  24. ^ "Testimonials". Panthera. 
  25. ^ "Can They Stay Out of Harm’s Way?". The New York Times. 1 January 2008. 
  26. ^ "Tom Kaplan: 'I have big plans for big cats'". The Daily Telegraph. 11 August 2009. 
  27. ^ "Extra: The Manhattan Project for big cats". 60 Minutes. 30 January 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  28. ^ "In Search of the Jaguar". 60 Minutes. 30 January 2011. 
  29. ^ "Tom Kaplan Receives 2012 IWFF "Hero of the Year Award"". Panthera. 11 May 2012. 
  30. ^ "Queen's Anniversary Prize for WildCRU". Oxford University. 25 November 2011. 
  31. ^ "Conservation Initiative: Indigo News". The Florida Wildlifer 15 (2): 6. October 2008. 
  32. ^ "African Rainforest Conservancy's 23rd Annual Artists for Africa Benefit". Black Tie Magazine. 
  33. ^ "Philanthropists Pledge $80 Million for Wild Cat Conservation". National Geographic. 2 June 2014. 
  34. ^ "Can Big Name Philanthropists Save The Big Cats?". Forbes. 2 June 2014. 
  35. ^ "Hear Me Roar". Baku. Winter 2014. 
  36. ^ "Recanati-Kaplan Program for Excellence in the Arts". 92nd Street Y. 
  37. ^ "UM School of Medicine dedicates Lillian Jean Kaplan Renal Transplantation Center". University of Miami. 10 December 2002. 
  38. ^ "Bassem Masri, M.D.". Weill Cornell Medical College. 
  39. ^ The Tablet: "Among Friends" By Allison Hoffman January 19, 2010
  40. ^ Forbes: "The Tragedy Of Guma Aguiar And A $2 Billion Texas Gas Fortune" by Nathan Vardi June 28, 2012
  41. ^ "Thomas Kaplan". Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  42. ^ "Membership Roster". Council on Foreign Relations. 
  43. ^ "Ambassador Delattre Honors Tom Kaplan". Embassy of France in Washington. 8 April 2014. 
  44. ^ "France Honors Tom Kaplan with the Legion of Honor". Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S. 7 April 2014. 
  45. ^ "When money and money meet". Globes (in Hebrew). 16 November 1999. 
  46. ^ The Tablet: "Prodigal Son - A look at Guma Aguiar, who with his uncle bankrolled a New York rabbi trying to control the standards for conversion to Judaism" By Allison Hoffman January 15, 2010
  47. ^ ABC News: "Missing Millionaire Guma Aguiar's Even Richer Uncle Suspicious of Disappearance" By CHRISTINA NG July 3, 2012

External links[edit]