McLean Leaves ComVen — Higgerson To Return?

Last week, ComVentures announced that it had hired Bob Barron as a venture partner. I received the press release while in the middle of a phone conversation, and mentioned it to my conversant. His response: “Sounds like they’re trying to get some good news out before everyone learns about the bad news.” Unfortunately, he wouldn’t elaborate — which nagged at me like the Johnny Damon Yankees jersey I recently saw hanging in a Greenwich Village bar.

But here it is: Jim McLean is leaving ComVentures, after having served as a general partner since 2000. The move has come as quite a shock to limited partners, who have now seen five general partners leave the firm this decade, following Paul Vabakos, David Helfrich, Perry Wu and firm co-founder Cliff Higgerson.

Well, maybe make that four. Higgerson originally was supposed to make at least one deal per year from ComVentures’ $350 million sixth fund, which closed in 2003 but didn’t call down any capital until 2005. That never happened, however, and Higgerson was removed from the firm website following late 2004 redesign. But now it seems that he is returning to do that one deal per year (or perhaps even more), which one assumes means either: (A) He agreed to return to that LPs didn’t completely freak out or (B) He left because of conflicts with McLean, which have now been removed. Either way, some LPs are beginning to regret their fund commitment. “Nothing worries me more than partnership instability,” one said.

Neither McLean nor anyone from ComVentures returned requests for comment.

Update: Higgerson says that reports (specifically my report) of his possible return to ComVentures are unfounded, as it would be “pretty hard to go back.” Instead, Higgerson is continuing to work independently out of an office at Crescendo Ventures, with a focus on early-stage deals related to China and communications (one deal done, a few in the pipeline). He also is in talks with multiple firms about working part-time, and expects to affiliate with more than one of them.

2007 Update: Jim McLean is now running 3i Group’s IT venture group out of Menlo Park, while Higgerson is a venture partner with Walden International.