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Monday, Mar 27, 2023


Longtime OC exec Fred Thiel, who works out of an Irvine Spectrum office as CEO for $1.7B-valued bitcoin miner Marathon Digital Holdings (Nasdaq: MARA), is the brother of Peter Thiel. But not the Peter Thiel you may be thinking of, who rose to prominence as a co-founder of PayPal and other ventures, and who was the first outside investor in Facebook.

That Peter Thiel, with a fortune estimated around $5B, is also a partner at VC heavyweight Founders Fund, which was an early investor in Palmer Luckey’s local defense contractor Anduril Industries, and before that Luckey’s Oculus VR, which Facebook bought for $3B in 2014.

Fred Thiel says his older brother is also named Peter Thiel.

Fred Thiel, who also runs his own private investment firm, says he’s had “some interesting conversations in the past” with “the Peter Thiel,” and the pair invested in a small transaction together 10 years ago.

“I do get this question very often—even more so now that Peter Thiel is getting active in crypto. As a matter of fact, both of us were speakers at the Bitcoin 2022 conference—makes for a great conversation starter,” Fred Thiel tells our Peter J. Brennan.

For more on OC’s growing emergence in the cryptocurrency industry—including Fred Thiel’s Marathon Digital, and US Bitcoin Corp., which has a local CFO and backing from “the” Peter Thiel—see Brennan’s industry overview, starting on the front page.

Peter Thiel’s backing of Anduril Industries appears to be paying more dividends.

News website The Information first reported late last month that the Costa Mesa firm is raising capital that could boost its pre-investment valuation to more than $7B, from $4.6B about a year ago.

The report said that Anduril, founded by Palmer Luckey in 2017, is planning to raise between $500 million and $1B in a Series E round.

David Frame, CEO of J.P. Morgan’s U.S. Private Bank, one of the largest providers of wealth management services with more than $1 trillion in client assets, had his first-ever In-N-Out burger during a recent visit to his company’s Irvine office.

­“It’s the best burger I’ve ever had. It is so good—that sauce is so good,” Frame told Brennan. “I’d rather have it than Shake Shack, for sure.”

Frame was in town to visit OC boss Ethan Morgan—who writes the Business Journal’s weekly stock commentary (see page 22)—as part of a push to expand local hiring. The private bank, which started a decade ago in Orange County with five financial advisers, expects to have 60 by the end of this year, Frame said. The private bank recently expanded its Irvine office by leasing another 4,500 square feet of space.  

The private bank’s business model is to serve clients with a net worth topping $10 million or more and $5 million in investable assets, for which there are 65,000 such households in OC, Frame said. Of that number, 7,000 to 8,000 have $25 million or more in net worth, Frame said.

“You’re talking about a top five opportunity set in the entire country for wealth,” Frame told the Business Journal. “That’s a powerful argument” for expansion.

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Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.

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