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Exclusive: Another Shakeup at Highland Capital Partners

Boston Exteriors And LandmarksBoston Exteriors And Landmarks

Last fall we discussed how Highland Capital Partners, a venture capital firm historically based in Massachusetts, had named Silicon Valley partner Peter Bell as its sole managing partner. The move seemed to predicate a westward shift of focus, particularly given persistent rumors that many of the firm’s remaining East Coast partners wouldn’t be coming back for its tenth fund.

Yesterday, however, Highland informed LPs that Bell has transitioned into a senior advisor role. Moreover, firm co-founder Paul Maeder, who stepped back in 2012, is returning in a full-time capacity as chairman and a general partner on its existing ninth fund.

Bell, who did not respond to a request for comment, will maintain his existing portfolio board seats, and is said to be shifting his focus toward philanthropic activities (including with his alma matter of Boston College). Maeder, who still serves on the boards of seven Highland portfolio companies, will now oversee all non-investing activities.

Highland still has investment staff in Silicon Valley, and the firm will continue actively investing on the West Coast, but it’s hard to read this as anything but a power shift (particularly with suggestions that longtime East Coast partners Dan Nova and Bob Davis are now likely to stick around).

From the email sent by Highland to limited partners: “Over the course of the past year, we have been devoting much thought to our geographic investment strategy. We have discussed these deliberations with many of you. After considering your feedback and analyzing the market dynamics, we have concluded that continuing as a national firm with a presence in both the Northeast and Silicon Valley provides the greatest opportunity for you, our limited partners.”