The Zahren Funds’ Management Team
The successful implementation of creativity structured investments in a variety of sectors demands experience, due diligence, and a strong commitment from a management team.
Bernard J. Zahren, Manager
Bernie Zahren has spent over 47 years in a variety of entrepreneurial and management roles accumulating a wealth of knowledge in both investment syndications and renewable energy. Mr. Zahren has been instrumental in implementing business focused sustainability initiatives. He has testified before Congressional committees on alternative energy issues and has chaired a special committee that worked for extensions of Internal Revenue Code income tax credits for the production of alternative fuels.
Zahren Financial Co., LLC is the Manager of Clean Feet Investors I, LLC. CFI I is a private multi-million dollar investment fund with a successful 8 year track record to-date. The business focuses of CFI I’s portfolio include: Solar Photovoltaic, SREC aggregation & finance, energy efficient hydroponic greenhouses, battery storage, water heater controls and Solar Thermal and energy brokerage. Projects are located throughout the U.S.
In 2018 ZFC sponsored a private placement for the Series D Convertible Preferred Stock of Stem, Inc. (www.stem.com). Investment by CFI I in the 2013 early deployment of battery storage systems using the proprietary AI of Stem led to the opportunity to participate in the mature venture Capital round in 2018. ZFC Capital Partners I, LP acquired 2,366,925 shares of the Preferred D stock in December, 2018.
Owner and Founder of Zahren Financial Co., LLC since 1984. ZFC structured and managed a variety of successful equipment leasing offerings in the 1980’s. In the early 1990’s Zahren Alternative Power Corp. (ZAPCO), a spinoff of Zahren Financial Co., LLC, was built into a portfolio of 27 landfill gas and co-generation projects through acquisition and development. In 1998 ZAPCO executed the first significant international trade of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Reductions in the U.S. This transaction was equivalent to taking 500,000 cars off the road for an entire year. ZAPCO was then sold to another entity in 2001 in a sale valued at $98 million.
Prior to forming his own company, Mr. Zahren developed successful investment syndications for a subsidiary of CIGNA Corp. Early in his career, he held senior management positions in such firms as Angeles Leasing Corp., Architectural Wood Products, Inc. and The Koppers Company.
In 2010 Mr. Zahren founded CFI I along with Jigar Shah, founder of SunEdison. CFI I seeks to provide significant returns from socially responsible investments in small to medium-sized renewable energy and energy conserving projects. By employing effective investment structures for sophisticated investors, CFI I is helping to fill the current void in “non-dilutive” capital for an industry segment that is both very attractive and critical for an effective overall energy policy. In our humble opinion, this represents the epitome of Doing Well by Doing Good! CFI I has made 41 consecutive distributions to its investors at annualized double digit rates of return. The Zahren Funds’ Team is comprised of leaders and innovators in the alternative energy sector who have decades of experience in entrepreneurial management, investment syndications, accounting and direct “hands on” operations of renewable energy projects.
Mr. Zahren truly believes in reducing his own carbon footprint, not only by managing and investing in Zahren Funds, but also by his renovation to his home which achieved “Net Zero Energy” awards through multiple deployments including: a 15 kilowatt wind turbine, geothermal heating and air conditioning, and a solar thermal hot water system.
He serves as the Chairman of the Avon CT Clean Energy Commission and has served as a member of the Board of the Talcott Mountain Science Center and Academy (www.TMSC.org) and on the Board of the Special Olympics and Community Health Charities of CT. Bernie also serves on the Advisory Board for The Partnership for Responsible Growth (www.partnershipforresponsiblegrowth.org/advisory-board).
Mr. Zahren holds a BS from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh.
Bernie has three daughters and seven grandchildren. His active participation in helping reduce emissions that are contributing to Climate Change is his way of “paying forward” the obligation he believes we should all share for all life on Planet Earth.
Richard V. Kretz, CPA and Manager
Dick retired from Cohn Reznick, LLP in 2014. Prior to his retirement he had been the managing partner of Kostin, Ruffkess & Company (a 140 person CPA firm) for 18 years. He was instrumental in executing the merger of Kostin, Ruffkess into JH Cohn, LLP which then merged with Reznick Group to form a 4,000 person CPA firm based in New York.
While he was the managing partner of Kostin, Ruffkess, the firm also created several other entities which were sold prior to the merger into JH Cohn. KR Wealth Management was the largest of these entities; Richard was instrumental in building the investment advisory practice and ultimately selling the company to new owners. During that time he held Series 7 and 65 licenses.
Dick has assisted and consulted with privately held businesses since his graduation in 1975 from Central Connecticut State University with a BS in Accounting. He has been a CPA in Connecticut since 1979.
He became a partner in Kostin, Ruffkess in 1987, and became the firm’s managing partner in 1993. During that time the firm grew from $4 million in revenues to $19 million when the firm was merged. He has acted as the Manager and subsequently Partner in Charge of Zahren Financial and its related entities from 1983 until his Kostin, Rufkess retirement. During that time the Zahren entities had grown to be the largest client of Kostin, Ruffkess until the company was sold in 2001. He has worked closely with Bernie for 35 years.
Subsequent to 2001, Dick has been a Manager of all of the Zahren entities with Bernie.
During his career he has served in board and officer positions with many non-profit organizations, as well as serving as a trusted advisor to many closely held businesses. Most recently, he is serving as a board member of Mosaic Power, LLC, one of the portfolio companies of CFI I. He and his wife are the proud grandparents of four children all living in Avon, CT. They split their time between Avon, CT and Bradenton, FL.
Tim Kretz, Manager
Tim joins Zahren Funds after spending over 15 years as a wealth advisor counseling and advising high net-worth individuals and business owners with regard to investment opportunities, risk analysis and monetary returns. He was part of an investment team that actively managed over $500 million in discretionary advisory accounts. He is a graduate of Assumption University with a degree in History and Business.
Tim has been securities registered since 2002. He holds FINRA Series 7 & 66 registrations through LPL Financial. Tim also holds an insurance license and he holds the AIF designation in 2013. Tim received his bachelor’s degree from Assumption College. Given his in-depth knowledge of capital markets, business development, his strong finance background, family focus, and commitment to the environment, Tim is a great fit for CFI and the opportunities ahead.
Tim, his wife Erin and their two young daughters live in Avon, CT. In addition, Tim serves as a coach for the Avon Soccer Club as well as a volunteer steward for the Farmington River Watershed Association.
Lorie Maguire, Finance Manager
Lorie joined Zahren Funds in the summer of 2020 as Finance Manager. She earned her B.S. degree in Accounting at Southern Connecticut State University in 1996. Prior to joining Clean Feet Investors, Lorie held managerial positions in Finance and Accounting for both private and publicly held companies. She has worked in construction, retail, service and manufacturing industries. With her in-depth knowledge of accounting and attention to detail, a vast accounting experience across multiple industries, family focus and commitment to the environment, Lorie is a perfect addition to Zahren Funds’ team as Finance Manager. Lorie is an active member of the CT Hart cheer booster club and has served on the Board for Canton Warriors Football and Cheer. She resides in Canton with her husband Kevin and their daughter.
Chris Cook, Manager
Prior to joining Zahren Funds, Mr. Cook provided energy consulting services to businesses, governments, NGOs and utilities. Mr. Cook provided consultation to municipalities on purchasing competitive electricity supply and structured wholesale deals worth nearly $100 million. This included investment due diligence for advanced energy storage and renewable energy projects as well as storage market reviews.
He has a BS degree in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Maryland School of Law. Mr. Cook is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Mr. Cook is a serial entrepreneur having started or co-founded five companies that all have had successful exits. He was also previously EVP for Regulatory Affairs and Grid Services at an advanced chemistry battery company where he developed a unique platform and business model for utility delivery of battery systems. Mr. Cook was President and General Counsel of Solar Grid Storage, one of the original investments in CFI I, a company he started which was focused on the use of financed battery storage for solar power installations. Mr. Cook was a co-founder of SunEdison where he served as the Company’s first General Counsel and wrote the first company power purchase agreement contract that became the model contract for the solar industry. He also led the regulatory and policy teams at SunEdison opening many of the new markets for solar energy.
Ben Margolis, Manager
Ben Margolis is an experienced consultant with over a decade of expertise in the renewable energy generation and storage sectors. Previously Ben was a Principal at Genseed Advisors, a management consulting company working with early stage cleantech ventures. At Genseed Advisors, Ben advised companies in the areas of go to market strategies, technology commercialization and corporate finance.
Ben has worked on a wide variety of technologies including EVs, grid technologies, storage and renewable energy. Prior to Ben’s work at Genseed Advisors, he was a Director at Sol Systems, a renewable energy development and finance firm. There, he focused on managing strategic partnerships to deliver renewable energy projects. Before Sol Systems, Mr. Margolis founded and led Pentricity, a company that worked with publicly-owned utilities to implement residential energy efficiency solutions.
Mr. Margolis holds an MBA from University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and a Bachelor of Sciences in Environmental Engineering from the University of Maryland.
Kate Careb, Associate Manager
Kate Careb joined Zahren Funds as an Associate Manager in the fall of 2020. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Central Connecticut State University. Kate is a leading fundraising professional with a keen focus on managing strategic gifts for high net-worth individuals, organizational strategic planning, mission focused events and capital advancement. Formerly, Kate has held positions as Campaign Finance Director for Oz Griebel, Inc., Vice President of Advancement at Special Olympics CT and most recently as President of her consulting firm, Kate Careb Advancement.
Kate is a Stonington, Connecticut native who has spent most of her adult life working as an advocate for people with intellectual disabilities. Kate is intensely community focused with specific interests in creating housing that is affordable for all, battling the opioid crisis and advocating for all people particularly those with intellectual differences.
Kate is currently President of the board of the Stonington housing Authority, President of the Stonington Realty Corporation, and Vice President of the board of Trustees of St. Edmunds Retreat and Recovery mission. When Kate isn’t working she can always be found with her family or in her art studio: “Kate Sea Coastal Art”. Kate has been happily married to her husband, Dan, for 30 years and has two, outstanding, adult daughters Hannah and Lily.