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(Updated to remove Cisco from the list of Sequoia Capital deals at the firm’s request. Moritz was not the lead partner on that investment.)
Michael Moritz, the prominent Silicon Valley investor who has backed companies such as Google (GOOG), LinkedIn (LNKD), PayPal, and Yahoo! (YHOO), is stepping back from some of his responsibilities at his firm, Sequoia Capital, and has disclosed to the firm’s investors that he has a rare medical condition.
Moritz did not specify the nature of his illness. In a letter to limited partners sent on Monday morning and provided to Bloomberg Businessweek, Moritz wrote, “I have been diagnosed with a rare medical condition which can be managed but is incurable. I’ve been told that in the next five to ten years the quality of my life is quite likely to decline. Right now I feel fitter than ever and I hope that I’ll be one of the lucky ones who can live a full life and defy the statisticians. But there is no way of predicting this with certainty and thus for me life has assumed a different meaning and I am making some adjustments.”
Sequoia says Moritz is relinquishing some of his management responsibilities, including regulatory compliance and recruiting. He will remain involved in making new investments from current and future funds, and mentoring startups.
Over the last two decades, the Welsh-born Moritz has been a fixture in Silicon Valley, first as a journalist and author, and then as one of the most successful investors on Menlo Park’s Sand Hill Road. In addition to backing such Internet pioneers as Yahoo and Google, he sat on a number of boards, including Google’s from 1999 to 2007. In 1984, he authored The Little Kingdom: the Private Story of Apple Computer.
“We are very transparent with investors who have committed capital to us and we feel they should know what goes on inside Sequoia,” says Doug Leone, managing director. “Mike has been my partner for 23 years. I know how tough and determined he is and I know that his instincts are to fight and overcome challenges. Quite frankly I’m proud of the decision he has made to have a little more time to work with young people and devote to entrepreneurship and building great companies.”
Asked over e-mail for more details about his illness, Moritz sounded upbeat. “I’m going to keep the nature of my condition private but on a completely unrelated matter if anyone can make my 57 year old back feel like it was when I was a teenager, they should call.”
Asked about Moritz’s legacy, Leone also took the opportunity to provide a quip. “You’re going to have to wait a long time for that. He’s working on our future. If you want to talk to him, go on one of his 100-mile bike rides from San Francisco to Monterey. If you can catch up with him, he’ll be happy to chat.”
Here’s the full letter Sequoia sent to its investors:
We have always tried to be straightforward with you and, in that spirt, I need to share something. Unfortunately, I have been diagnosed with a rare medical condition which can be managed but is incurable. I’ve been told that in the next five to ten years the quality of my life is quite likely to decline. Right now I feel fitter than ever and I hope that I’ll be one of the lucky ones who can live a full life and defy the statisticians. But there is no way of predicting this with certainty and thus for me, life has assumed a different meaning and I am making some adjustments.
I am going to extract myself from the daily management of Sequoia Capital, a task that has consumed a large part of my time for the past sixteen years. I will become Chairman of Sequoia Capital and will be deeply involved with nurturing the fresh investments, ideas and relationships that can be of significant long-term benefit for all of us. I will also work very closely with some of our younger and newer members, will continue my role as Managing Member of existing funds and maintain all my current company responsibilities. I will use twelve to fourteen weeks—sprinkled throughout the course of each year—for various pursuits, diversions and trivial indulgences.
Nothing about this should cause much of a change because everything that has been achieved at Sequoia Capital has resulted from the teamwork and contribution of many people. Our overall business is in the best shape it has ever been and we are better positioned than at any time in our forty year history. Doug Leone will assume full responsibility for coordinating the business we have gradually developed over the past couple of decades and almost everything else remains entirely the same.
Thanks for your support,