Gore Has Steadily Regained National Footing

Michele Norris talks Karen Breslau, San Francisco bureau chief for Newsweek, and author of "The Resurrection of Al Gore," an article published in the May 2006, issue of Wired Magazine. Breslau discusses what Gore has been up to since he left office.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

After the 2000 election, Al Gore was fixed in the public eye as the man who almost became president. Then, over the past year, his popular image - as the defeated politician - was largely replaced by that of the celebrity crusader. His movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," triumphant with twin Oscars at the Academy Awards.

Less known is Al Gore's role as businessman. After the election pushed Gore from the public to the private sector, he systematically built a financial empire based on investments, media holdings and advisory positions with the glittering list of high-tech firms.

Karen Breslau has explored Al Gore's second act in a lengthy magazine article in Wired Magazine. And she joins us now. She's a San Francisco bureau chief for Newsweek Magazine. Welcome to the program.

Ms. KAREN BRESLAU (San Francisco Bureau Chief, Newsweek Magazine): Thank you so much.

NORRIS: So, who is Al Gore the businessman?

Ms. BRESLAU: First of all, he's incredibly successful, and diversified, and happy. And secondly, he is, as always, a futurist. And he's positioned himself as both an investor and an owner in several business enterprises that bet on what he calls the carbon-constrained future.

NORRIS: And carbon-constrained future - what exactly is that? What are we looking toward?

Ms. BRESLAU: That means the world that Gore wants, and was testifying before Congress today, in which all sectors of the American economy are required to cut their greenhouse gas emission. Congress will cap them just as we've seen in Europe and much of the rest of the industrialized world. And companies are going to have to figure out how to pollute less. And companies that do that well, and that do that fast will have what's known as the first mover advantage and will consequently make a lot of money.

NORRIS: So, is that how he's making a lot of money? He's actually staked up his territory early on?

Ms. BRESLAU: That's one of the ways he's made money by founding an investment firm called Generation Investment Management, which essentially places private capital in companies that Gore and his team of really expert advisers think will make a lot of money in the new, new economy - which is the carbon-constrained economy. That's one way.

But the first thing he did was to situate himself with a company called Google before it went public as a special adviser, and he got a nice slice of equity in what is now a multi, multibillion dollar company.

NORRIS: So he did that before the IPO?

Ms. BRESLAU: He sure did. And he also is on the board of directors at Apple, with his friend, Steve Jobs.

NORRIS: So it sounds like he had a nice landing pad.

Ms. BRESLAU: He did. He also has a TV venture, which is based in San Francisco, called Current TV. And this is not unlike YouTube, the idea being that viewers generate the contact. It's a youth-oriented cable channel. It's both a television and an Internet presence. And he started that with Joel Hyatt, the legal entrepreneur.

NORRIS: Now, you spend a lot of time talking to him, talking to a lot of people who are working closely with him. Is this fueled by his environmental interest, or perhaps also a desire to be a real player, a financial player and develop real clout in a new arena?

Ms. BRESLAU: I think the financial stuff was not his main motivation. I mean, it certainly hasn't hurt, and he's looking really happy. But what really has motivated Gore, I think, is the chance to be his own man. What he has found is a great way to marry what he does well, which his looking around the corner and seeing the future, and a surprising business acumen.

NORRIS: You know, there's this question, Karen, that follows him wherever he goes, however do you - the question of whether he plans to get back into politics. And given that…

Ms. BRESLAU: Right.

NORRIS: You were describing a man who seems to quite content with his life right now, is it likely that he would trade all that in?

Ms. BRESLAU: I personally don't think so. And of course, he has this, you now, well-rehearsed arsenal of one-liners for why he won't get back in the race and…

NORRIS: But never really says no.

Ms. BRESLAU: He never really says no, but I talked to Tipper Gore, and she is his number one adviser. And I detected on her part zero enthusiasm for anything remotely related to a presidential campaign.

NORRIS: Karen Breslau, thanks so much for speaking with us.

Ms. BRESLAU: You're very welcome.

NORRIS: Karen Breslau, thanks so much for speaking with us.

Ms. BRESLAU: You're very welcome.

NORRIS: Karen Breslau is the San Francisco bureau chief for Newsweek Magazine.

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