Small nexus of friends

— Some interesting San Diego business connections are coming to light as a result of the controversy over who paid for those TV spots against school-board member Frances Zimmerman. A venture-capital fund called Sorrento Associates -- which itself is listed as having given $500 to the campaign of attorney Julie Dubick, Zimmerman's foe on the November ballot -- includes some of the same people who have given six-figure donations to the anti-Zimmerman spots. According to its website, Sorrento's partners include Hang Ten International, whose board chairman is school superintendent Alan Bersin's father-in-law, Stanley Foster; Hot Topic, Inc., a company on whose board Foster also serves that sells rock-related and gothic-style clothes and accessories to teenagers (Robert M. Jaffe, Sorrento's president, is Hot Topic's board chairman); Evans Hotels, run by the wealthy Evans family, clients of Dubick's law firm, Seltzer, Caplan, who have also contributed to Dubick; and Qualcomm, whose founder Irwin Jacobs has reportedly given $100,000 to the anti-Zimmerman campaign. Other Sorrento investors, according to published reports, include downtown real estate mogul Malin Burnham, who reportedly gave $50,000 to the TV effort against Zimmerman; Shelia Davis Lawrence, widow of the late hotel magnate Larry Lawrence; and former congresswoman Lynn Schenk, now a top aide to Governor Gray Davis. In a June 1996 story, the Union-Tribune described Sorrento Associates as "a private group of 30 or so wealthy San Diego business executives committed to investing in home-grown high-tech and biotech firms."


Two high-ranking San Bernardino county officials who pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges earlier this year have transferred ownership of their homes in Carlsbad to family members in an alleged attempt to avoid paying millions of dollars in civil damages. Top county administrator Harry Mays, who in 1995 bought a $475,000 condo, and retired treasurer/tax collector Tom O'Donnell, who owns a $329,000 house, also in Carlsbad, both deeded their ownership interests to their wives. The transfers are "a veiled attempt by these individuals to hide their true assets that were obtained with ill-gotten gains through their corruption at the county," county supervisor Fred Aguiar told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "I am hoping the civil lawsuit will get those assets back to the rightful owners, which are the taxpayers of this county." San Bernardino is suing Mays and O'Donnell for more than $2.2 million in damages related to a waste-hauling bribery scandal.

Topekan's pique

A columnist for the Topeka Capital-Journal is making fun of San Diego's stadium problems. "You're going to have trouble believing this, but the San Diego city council has done some things that make Topeka's city council look good. And no, I have not been out in the sun too long," wrote Dick Snider after returning from a vacation here. He called the Chargers deal "the great giveaway," adding that "on the baseball front, the details are more sordid, and just as dumb." ... Warren Hellman, the wealthy San Francisco venture capitalist who is also father-in-law to UCSD chancellor Robert Dynes and a business partner of Padres owner John Moores, finds himself in the middle of a nasty controversy over whether to close off Saturday traffic in Golden Gate Park in favor of pedestrians. Prop F seeks the Saturday closure; Prop G would delay closure for five years until a parking garage could be built. Hellman is backing G. "To a substantial extent, it's a spat among friends," Hellman told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I think that G is better than F, [but] I think the G and F people should have negotiated a compromise instead of going to the ballot." ... Heavenlydoor.com, a self-described "funeral industry Web portal," has inked a deal with a San Diego-based insurance outfit that does business under such names as SeniorQuote and SeniorFamilyCare, according to a company news release that adds, "Through our planned merger with WWH, we are launching a full-service, synergistic company targeted to a demographic group that deeply covets what we have to offer -- one company proactively addressing their insurance, funeral, estate, financial and retirement services needs."

Contributor: Matt Potter

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