Investor and Historian
Thomas Kaplan is an American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and environmentalist. After completing his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees (the latter focused on counter-insurgency in Malaya and its consequences) in history at Oxford University, Kaplan began his career as a hedge fund analyst, drawing on historical cycles to detect trends in the financial markets. His research in the early 1990s led him to the conclusion that a cyclical low was at hand in silver. He acted on that belief by founding a silver exploration company, Apex Silver Mines. While he was CEO and chairman of Apex, Kaplan’s team discovered and financed the San Cristobal deposit in Bolivia, now one of the largest producers of silver and zinc in the world. Kaplan retired from Apex Silver at the end of 2004 to focus on his new exploration projects. Soon after, he began making investments in platinum group metals companies drawing on the same cyclical insights. The Kaplan family in 1999 became one of the largest shareholders in Zimplats and in 2003 became the largest shareholder in African Platinum PLC. Kaplan successfully exited the former in 2003 and the latter in 2007, both through corporate sales to Impala Platinum.
In 2003, Kaplan drew on historical analysis to reach a similar conclusion with respect to oil, predicting that oil would exceed $100 a barrel. He founded and financed Leor Energy, which developed the Amoruso field in East Texas, one of the biggest onshore natural gas discoveries in the United States. At the time when its assets were sold in 2007 to EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., Leor Energy was the fastest-growing privately held oil and gas exploration and production company in the U.S. Building on his prediction a decade ago that gold would rise to unprecedented levels due to favorable supply/demand equations as well as greater investor awareness of gold as a safe haven against global currency debasement, since the sale of Leor Kaplan has been the chairman of the Electrum group of companies, a New York City-based investment and asset management firm with a principal focus on precious metals.
Kaplan and his family support a number of philanthropic and conservation causes in the United States and the developing world. Kaplan is the co-founder and executive chairman of Panthera Corporation, a charity devoted to preserving big cats and their ecosystems around the globe. Further to their commitment to ensuring the survival of the big cats, Kaplan and his wife, Daphne Recanati Kaplan, endowed the Recanati-Kaplan Center at Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, the WildCRU, creating the leading university-based felid conservation program. The Kaplans are also active in community and family philanthropy. Kaplan is the chairman of the board of directors of the 92nd Street Y, a leading Jewish community and cultural center.
Kaplan is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and also of the International Council at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, where he and Graham Allison created the Recanati-Kaplan Intelligence Fellows program.