Artifact Details


Lea, Charles L. Jr. oral history

Catalog Number





Charles Lea began his career as a financial statistician with W.R. Grace & Co in 1952. Within a year, he had joined Bessemer Securities as a security analyst. In 1961, Charlie became a partner at F. S. Smithers & Co where he focused on small cap stocks and private start-up ventures, which included Damon Engineering, an electronics manufacturing firm that became a large chain of medical laboratories listed on the NYSE.

Charlie joined New Court Securities Corp in 1969, an economic time he recalls as “dreary, at best, but a great time to make venture investments.” New Court’s investments included: Amgen, Cray Research, Federal Express, Monolithic Memories, Oximetrix and Tandem Computers. Of these, Charlie said, “Federal [Express] involved some pretty heavy lifting on my part. On the day it went public, I tendered my resignation. A five year struggle had come to a wonderful end.”

In 1973, Charlie was one of the co-founders and on the inaugural board of the National Venture Capital Association. He recalls: “The NVCA was formed to bring to the attention of Washington — the Congress and the regulators — that jobs are created by small growing companies.” He said, “it was a testament to how awful the times were, to get all those independent cats in one room to even consider the problems.”

In 1981, Charlie, and his friend John Birkelund, left New Court to start a new fund, Concord Partners. While organizing Concord, Nicholas Brady, Chairman of Dillon Read, asked Charlie and John to join forces with him in a senior capacity; John became president and Charlie became the managing director with responsibilities for Concord Partners. This relationship lasted until 1996, when Dillon Read was acquired by Swiss Bank Corp. Concord Partners I and II, with Concord Japan and Cord Capital, a European effort, represented just over $170 million in paid capital.

Through the 1980s, Concord invested in a diversified list of technology and biotech companies: SanDisk, Tessera, and Gilead Sciences; energy companies: Vintage Petroleum (Occidental), Associate Natural Gas, and Meenan Oil; insurance: NAC-RE Insurance; and banks: Bowery Savings Bank and Team Bank Shares.

Retiring in 1997, to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Charlie has served as vice chairman of Shore Health Systems, a not-for-profit multi-hospital organization; director and chairman of the investment committee of the Midshore Community Foundation; governor emeritus of Washington College; and trustee-emeritus of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

Now spending the winters in Florida, Charlie applies his characteristic optimism to his golf game, claiming “it is one thing you can still get better at, at this stage in life.”




Kolker, Carole, Interviewer
Lea, Charles L. Jr., Interviewee


National Venture Capital Association (NVCA)


160 p.





Collection Title

NVCA-Venture Forward Oral History Collection


Gift of National Venture Capital Association

Lot Number


Related Records

102740517 Lea, Charles L. Jr. oral history