Slain Biotech Investor Leaves $1 Million to Support Entrepreneurship

1/11/12Follow @bvbigelow

The San Diego members of Southern California’s Tech Coast Angels (TCA) have established a $1 million nonprofit foundation in the name of John G. Watson, the late San Diego life sciences executive and investor who was slain here almost two years ago.

In a touching afterward to the tragedy, TCA president Stephen Flaim tells me that Watson left a $1 million gift to set up some kind of fund that would support entrepreneurs and startup activities in San Diego. “The foundation is based on this endowment,” Flaim says. “We’ve put the money under management and hope to solicit additional contributions. We want the fund to grow.”

Watson, a retired pharmaceutical executive, was active in San Diego’s network of angel investors and was overseeing plans for the group’s “Quick Pitch” competition for the second consecutive year when he died. Two TCA members discovered Watson’s body in his La Jolla townhome on June 8, 2010, after he failed to show for a regular TCA board meeting at the UC San Diego faculty club.

Kent Thomas Keigwin, a local investment adviser who was charged in Watson’s death, was convicted by a San Diego jury two months ago of first-degree murder, identity theft, attempted grand theft of personal property, burglary, and forgery. The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Sharla Evert, argued that Keigwin used a stun gun to immobilize Watson and strangled him. She told jurors that Keigwin used Watson’s personal information to impersonate him and had transferred $8.9 million from Watson’s personal accounts at the time he was arrested. Keigwin’s sentencing is scheduled for later this month.

In a statement from the TCA, Watson’s sister, Gillian Ison, says, “John loved investing, innovation, and the entrepreneurial spirit that he discovered when he arrived in San Diego. We believe that a foundation supporting entrepreneurism is the best way to honor his memory and his life.”

A native of the United Kingdom, Watson graduated from Cambridge University with a bachelor of science degree in economics before coming to the United States to study as a Fulbright Scholar at Indiana University. He earned a … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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