Imlay, Mosley passing the torch

By Maria Saporta
Friday, March 4, 2011

Two of Atlanta’s most veteran technology investors, John Imlay and Sig Mosley, are passing the torch.

Melanie Bialko Leeth, who has been working with Imlay and Mosley for nearly 20 years, will be taking on greater responsibility in managing both Imlay Investments and the endowment of the Imlay Foundation.

Imlay will turn 75 in August, and Mosley will turn 65 in September. A year ago, the duo announced they would stop investing in new technology startups. But the investors are as busy as ever. Imlay Investments still has a portfolio of 37 companies, which it continues to nurture.

In a March 1 interview, Imlay described Leeth as “the heir apparent” to overseeing the investments for Imlay’s business and foundation interests.

“Sig and I get all the credit, and Melanie does all the work and has for years,” Imlay said. “It’s a combination of intelligence, enthusiasm and trust. Those are the three traits that set her apart. Sig and I feel comfortable with her in the years ahead.”

As Imlay Investments ratchets down its portfolio and liquidates those assets, those funds will be transferred to the Imlay Foundation, which currently has an endowment of $22 million.

In October 2009, Imlay invited his family members and foundation directors to a retreat to work on a long-range plan as to whether they should give away the foundation’s money while Imlay is still alive; or whether the foundation should live on.

“The kids were interested in keeping it,” Imlay said. “We are going to keep the foundation for 50 years. The children will give the money away down the road. It could be hundreds of millions of dollars. There will be lots of money to continue to invest.”

Currently, the foundation gives away at least $1 million a year. Its executive director is Imlay’s wife — Mary Ellen Imlay. Recent gifts include a $700,000 gift to Camp Twin Lakes for the building of a new pool as well as gifts to the High Museum of Art.

About 10 percent of what the foundation gives away goes to charities in Scotland, where Imlay lives for about three months each year. He also makes personal gifts, such as the building of stone bridges on several of the golf courses in Scotland. Four already have been built, another four are under way and there eventually could be as many as 20 Imlay stone bridges in the next several years.

The transition at Imlay Investments will permit Imlay and Mosley to be less involved in the day-to-day business operations.

“I’m part time,” Imlay said. “I don’t have the quarter-to-quarter problems of keeping a business. I can play golf whenever I want to. I thought I would miss it, but I don’t.”

Imlay and Mosley have worked together for 40 years, becoming leaders in the software development industry. Although Imlay is best known for being an angel investor of high-tech startups, that only represents about 20 percent of its investments.

For example, Imlay is one of the key minority owners of the Atlanta Falcons, an investment he’s had since the early 1990s. “I had to fight Sig on that one,” Imlay said.

Leeth joined Imlay Investments in 1991 after serving as a vice president with MG-First Boston, a startup venture between Metellgesellshaft and First Boston in New York. She also had been a investment banker with Citibank.

“I’ve had two great mentors in John and Sig,” said Leeth, 45. “It’s been such a great ride. I love what I’m doing.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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