Ryan Kavanaugh Lands $150 Million Stock Windfall Thanks to Biotech IPO

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Ryan Kavanaugh

His family foundation and investment arm profited from a small seed investment made in 2008 in a pharmaceutical company whose parent just went public.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

If his studio ever falters, Relativity Media CEO Ryan Kavanaugh has a nice investment to fall back on. Thanks to the largest biotech IPO of 2014, Kavanaugh's family foundation and investment arm, Knight Global, now has about $150 million worth of stock. The windfall comes from a small seed investment made in 2008 in ZetaRX, a pharmaceutical company acquired in 2013 by Juno Therapeutics. Juno is a clinical-stage immune-oncology company whose main product is a therapy that uses a patient's own T-cells to develop cancer treatments specific to them. Juno went public Dec. 23, selling 12.7 million shares at $24 each (a $4 billion market cap). It since has doubled to more than $50 a share (as of Jan. 19). 

Kavanagh's Knight holds about 3 million shares, or a little less than 5 percent. ZetaRx was founded by Kavanaugh's father, Dr. Jack Kavanaugh, who brought in collaborators including the City of Hope and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. After promising tests, what is now a division of Juno expects to begin clinical trials before year's end (it is seeking accelerated FDA approval). "This could be the most important breakthrough in cancer we've witnessed," says Kavanaugh, "and knowing my father's hard work, dedication and goal to end cancer was a primary driver in creating this makes this a very special moment."