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These articles by Barbara Fox were prepared for the March 8, 2006 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Life in the Fast Lane
Thomas D’Innocenzi, the 46-year-old founder of four IT and E-learning companies in Princeton, was charged on March 2 with stock fraud in connection with a fifth company, SpanLogix, formerly based at 100 Overlook.
In a complaint filed in a civil suit in U.S. District Court in Newark, Franklin Widmann of the New Jersey Bureau of Securities alleges that D’Innocenzi and an associate sold at least $840,000 of phony stock to 81 investors in New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland. According to the complaint, they were not registered brokers, sold unregistered stock, and made false claims, such as that SpanLogix was about to go public on Nasdaq. The complaint also says that telemarketers in Thailand promised specific returns on the stock and that the stock could be sold back to SpanLogix at any time.
D’Innocenzi has an unlisted number in Flemington and could not be reached for comment. D’Innocenzi, considered an E-learning pioneer in the 1990s, was involved in several companies, and all eventually closed.
According to a U.S. 1 interview published on March 12, 1997, D’Innocenzi grew up in North Brunswick, one of four children raised by a father who was both a salesman and a musician. D’Innocenzi was a musician and self-professed computer nerd. After graduating from high school in 1978 he went into the U.S. Air Force to continue his work with computers, and a later account said he worked as a Russian linguist. Then he joined Merck, where he was a manager of systems development.
In 1997, with two other Merck employees, he founded Systems Task Group in Flemington and moved it to 4365 Route 1 South. The company was doing "just about everything right that a company of its caliber could do," said the reporter. At that time D’Innocenzi lived in Flemington with his wife and daughter. (The law suit lists D’Innocenzi’s address as Raritan and his partner as Jenny Kotowich, formerly known as Jenny Wan.)
In 1998 D’Innocenzi’s firm was a runner up in a state venture fair and an exhibitor at the U.S. 1 computer showcase, and he changed its name to VLearn International to more accurately reflect its business – managing E-learning over the Internet. "We’re taking the Internet and industrializing it for large companies," D’Innocenzi said then. That year he bought two more firms, formed a parent company (STG International), and started a California subsidiary.
Also in 1998 the CFO of VLearn International reported contracts for English language training over the Internet through contacts in Taiwan and Singapore. It also had a Year 2K software program.
But VLearn disappeared from the U.S. 1 database in 2001. Its successor, said to have been founded in 1996, was Knowledge Window. In 2004 Knowledge Window reported to U.S. 1 Business Directory editors that it had eight employees, revenue in the range of $500,000 to $1 million, and 1,600 square feet at Princeton Service Center.
SpanLogix was listed in the U.S. 1 Business Directory in 2002, when it was located at Regus, the shared office space at Princeton Overlook. In 2003 it moved out of that office and had only a post office box address, and by 2004 it had closed. KnowledgeWindow has also closed.
"We have no idea where he is," an employee of the former company who now works for a different firm, not connected with D’Innocenzi. "He owes us money. We think he is overseas."
Five supporters of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty were convicted on March 2 of conspiracy to commit animal enterprise terrorism and interstate stalking. It was a landmark case in the history of animal rights activism and resulted from a jury trial in the Trenton court of U.S. District Judge Anne Thomson. A sixth supporter, Darius Fullmer, a Hamilton resident and the only New Jersey native, was convicted only on the conspiracy charge. The five are expected to be sentenced to at least three years in prison, and they went to jail after the verdict.
The lead prosecutor, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles McKenna, had charged that the six defendants mounted a terror campaign against individuals who did business with or for Huntingdon Life Sciences, which has a Somerset County laboratory for testing new drugs on animals. Defense lawyers declined to comments.
Bruce Kovner, founder of Caxton Associates, announced on February 28 that he has donated his multi-million dollar world-class music manuscript collection to the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
Kovner’s firm, founded in 1983 in Princeton, is a commodities trading firm that offers financial management services for offshore institutions and individuals. It is headquartered in New York now but has 150 employees in 40,000 square feet on Alexander Road.
As a collector of rare books and manuscripts, Kovner named his company after the English printer. It grew from incubator space at Commodities Corp. on Mount Lucas Road to its own quarters on Morgan Lane and Enterprise Drive before moving to Alexander Road.
As told by Jack Schwager in his "Market Wizards" book, Kovner was a harpsichord-playing taxi driver when he began trading commodities in 1977 by borrowing $3,000 on his credit card. He did have a blue collar background, but he also graduated cum laude from Harvard (Class of 1966), pursued a PhD at Harvard, managed political campaigns (thinking he might eventually be a candidate himself), hobnobbed with such celebrities as Henry Kissinger and Pat Moynihan, and served as consultant for various government agencies.
Kovner joined Commodities Corp. in 1977 and settled in Princeton with his wife, Sarah, a craftsperson who made violas; they have three children. He left in 1983 with $7.6 million to found his own company. According to the New York Times the family is living in New York on Fifth Avenue at 94th Street. Forbes magazine says Kovner is worth $2.5 billion, and with $10.8 billion under management last year, Caxton is the seventh largest hedge fund company.
Within three years the manuscripts will have their own climate-controlled room at Juilliard, which hopes to make some of them available on the Internet. Kovner is chairman of the board at Juilliard.
Caxton Associates LLC, 731 Alexander Road, Building 2, Princeton 08540; 609-419-1800; fax, 609-419-9040. John Forbes, CFO. Home page: www.caxton.com
RCN Corporation (RCNC), 196 Van Buren Street, Suite 300, Herndon VA 20170; 703-434-8400; fax, 703-434-8290. Peter Aquino, CEO. Home page: www.rcn.com
Four years ago RCN had 525 employees at the Carnegie Center. By April it will have none. Of the 122 employees in Princeton, 63 were offered jobs in Herndon, Virginia, and 26 people took those jobs, says John Filipowicz, senior vice president of human resources. Employees were notified last July and had to make their move-or-quit decisions by September.
RCN moved here from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1994, when it was known as C-Tec, and, under CEO David McCourt’s high-profile leadership, rode the dot-com wave. But in 2002 it spun out its Princeton area bundled services to Patriot Media, and in 2004 it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Peter Aquino replaced David McCourt as CEO early in 2005, and six months later the Princeton employees were notified of the move to Virginia. RCN already has 150 workers in a regional office and a business solution group in the same geographical area – and the new CEO is a Virginia resident. A former Bell Atlantic executive, Aquino majored in finance and economics at Montclair State and has a finance MBA from George Washington University.
RCN provides bundled phone, cable television, and high-speed Internet services nationwide.
Granahan McCourt Capital LLC, Box AQ, Princeton 08542; 609-333-1200; fax, 609-333-1210. David C. McCourt, chairman. Home page: www.granahanmccourt.com
Meanwhile David McCourt and a former RCN vice president, Barak Bar-Cohen, have formed a private investment fund focusing on the telecommunications and media industries. Named after a castle in Ireland owned by McCourt, the fund will make investments of $500,000 to $15 million with a two to four-year horizon.
On February 22 Granahan McCourt announced it was the lead investor in a $7.4 million deal with Narrowstep Inc, which provides IP-delivered video content based on its TelVOS commercial video and audio management system. Its clients range from sports organizations to government agencies, broadcasters and telecommunication providers on three continents, and it has launched 70 channels, including ITV (the top commercial broadcaster in the United Kingdom).
Abbott Point of Care (formerly i-STAT) (ABT), 104 Windsor Center Drive, East Windsor 08520; 609-443-9300; fax, 609-443-9310. Home page: www.i-stat.com
Last year Abbott Laboratories decided to buy i-Stat, a publicly traded firm. Now the name has changed. Abbott, based in Illinois, trades on the New York Stock Exchange. This division manufactures diagnostic blood analysis equipment manufacturing – handheld blood analyzers.
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