Al Gore just won a Nobel Prize for teaching the world to think green, but he's also showing he knows a thing or two about another kind of green: money. Since 2000, according to published reports, the former veep has transformed himself from a public servant with around $1 million in the bank to a sparkling private consultant with a net worth estimated to be north of $100 million. He's a senior adviser to Google, a board member at Apple and now a newly minted general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the Silicon Valley venture-capital firm that made billions investing early in Netscape, Amazon and Google.
Gore has pledged to hand over his KP "salary" to Alliance for Climate Protection, a nonprofit he chairs. But the gift is more symbolic than material. Gore's salary—his cut of the 2 percent "management fee" that KP partners get on all investments—is typically a sliver of the total compensation that VCs receive. If Gore's profit-sharing deal is anything like the firm's other 23 partners, he's also in line to collect tens of millions of dollars a year. That's because partners carve up 30 percent of the profits if and when the alternative-energy start-ups that KP supports go public or are sold. (Kleiner Perkins declined to comment on Gore's compensation, but his communications director, Kalee Kreider, confirmed that he plans to donate only his "guaranteed income" to charity.) Should Gore's prospecting unearth a clean-energy gold mine the size of Google—which earned billions for KP partners—his share of the loot could make him U.S. history's richest ex-veep. Emphasis on "ex": Gore's relationship with KP is perhaps the strongest signal yet that his days in politics are over. The firm is notoriously secretive about its finances, and it's unlikely that KP would strike a deal with Gore if the association could subject the firm to public scrutiny. And anyway, with the kind of money Gore stands to make, why run for president?