Our Energy Future
Two Delaware men are at the fore of the debate on energy use and environmental degradation. Can the views of the businessman and the scientist be far apart? Maybe. Maybe not…
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Yes, there’s a future in solar and wind, but as long as we must use coal and nuclear, John Moore wants to make it better.
John A. Moore’s first major investment was in a knitting mill, Tultex, in Martinsville, Virginia, where he lived in the mid-1970s. Moore figured the sweatsuit craze then sweeping the nation might make the local mill a good investment. So he bought some Tultex shares, then decided to get an up-close look at the company by attending the annual meeting. First, however, he had to be excused from school for the day. John Moore, you see, was in the sixth grade.
Tultex went on to become a Fortune 500 company. Moore went on to validate his wunderkind beginnings over the next 30 years with shrewd investments that gave him controlling interests in companies that spanned several industries. Today he is something of an entrepreneurial legend, one who espouses a counter-intuitive view of the energy and environmental crises while heading up Acorn Energy in Montchanin.
Moore lives with his wife and four school-age children in Greenville. He has a relaxed, self-effacing style that runs counter to the image of the ruthless business magnate. Take, for instance, the way he explains that first investment. “I wasn’t good in school. I wasn’t good at sports. I had to be good at something, and I felt if I got a lead on the other kids by learning about business and the stock market at a young age, I could find some success.”
While claiming that he brings no special intellectual prowess to the table, there’s no denying his three greatest assets: an ability to spot and take advantage of trends—like the ’70s sweatsuit craze—his work ethic and his willingness to take risks. His first major deal, which occurred a few years after his Tultex investment, is a case in point.
First, a little background: Moore’s father, John W., was a DuPont engineer who was transferred to several locations during Moore’s youth, including Martinsville and Switzerland. After Moore graduated from high school in that country, DuPont transferred his father to Wilmington. Fulfilling a promise to his dad, the 18-year-old Moore enrolled as a history major at Rutgers University—“I really didn’t want to go to college,” he says—attending night classes and living in New Brunswick, New Jersey. But during the day, he commuted to New York and pursued his real passion, Wall Street, where he worked at Lehman Bros. as a cold caller. “Smile and dial,” he says. “A miserable job, but an amazing experience.”
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