Executive Team

James E. Levine Chief Executive Officer

James E. Levine

Mr. James E. Levine joined Sapphire Energy in 2014 as Chief Executive Officer, bringing to the company a wealth of proven business experience in the industrial biotechnology industry. At Sapphire Energy, Mr. Levine is leading the ongoing efforts to transform the significant technical progress the company has achieved since its inception into a global business, through independent efforts and through partnerships.

Previously, Mr. Levine served as President, CEO and as a board member at Verenium Corporation, a NASDAQ-listed industrial biotechnology company based in San Diego. He joined Verenium in April 2009 as CFO. At Verenium, Mr. Levine initiated and managed many critical partner relationships, including BP, DuPont, DSM, Bunge, Cargill, Novus International, Colgate-Palmolive and Tate & Lyle, among others. This diverse suite of partners enabled Verenium to apply its core enzymes technology to large, global markets including biofuels and animal nutrition, and achieve a clear path to sustained profitability. Prior to Verenium, Mr. Levine was a Managing Director in the investment banking department of Goldman Sachs & Co. in both New York and London, where he focused on serving clients in the global energy and biotechnology industries, and his long term clients included major oil companies and both US and international oil refining companies. Mr. Levine received an M.B.A. degree with a concentration in finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in Economics from Brandeis University in Massachusetts.

Thomas 'Tom' Willardson Chief Financial Officer

Thomas 'Tom' Willardson

 Thomas 'Tom' Willardson joined Sapphire Energy as Chief Financial Officer in 2013, bringing more than 30 years of experience in leading financial initiatives for public and privately held companies. Most recently, Mr. Willardson served as CFO at Aurora Algae, Inc., a producer of high-performance, premium algae-based products for the pharmaceutical, nutrition, aquaculture, and fuels markets. Previously, he was CFO at Energy Recovery, Inc., a global leader in the design and development of energy recovery devices for desalination and other industrial processes, where he led the company's successful IPO initiative. At Cost Plus, Inc., the specialty retail store chain, he served as executive vice president and CFO, overseeing all companywide financial initiatives, including a significant restructuring of the company's bank credit lines. As CFO at Visual Sciences, formerly WebSideStory, a software company that pioneered what is today SaaS and the Cloud, he helped lead the company through an aggressive growth period of more than 40% annually and oversaw its subsequent IPO. As CFO at Archimedes Technology Group, a privately funded nuclear waste remediation technology company, he led a successful series D funding round and helped design an ESCO-similar plan to share in cost savings created by the company's own technology.

Mr. Willardson also previously held senior finance executive roles with Leap Wireless International, Bechtel Corporation, The Fremont Group, and Fluor Daniel. He holds a B.S. in Finance from Brigham Young University and an MBA from the University of Southern California.


Tim Zenk Senior Vice President of Corporate Development & Policy

Tim  Zenk

Tim Zenk has spent much of his distinguished career shaping public policy – in helping leaders become better leaders and the public become more educated about key issues impacting the nation and the globe. His more than 20 years of rich experience has taken him from the front lines of Washington D.C., to the back roads of the Middle East, and to rural areas working on big issues in small towns. His passion is apparent and his experience varied. Most recently, as executive vice president for Edelman, an international communications firm, he built and led numerous campaigns, organized public-private partnerships, and counseled energy, biotech and technology leaders. Some clients included Louis Dreyfus Commodities, NorthernStar Natural Gas, Fate Therapeutics and Ikaria. Prior to that, he was founder and vice president of Chameleon Technology, a venture funded cutting-edge leader in wireless infrastructures. He also was a top executive for Telecommunications Systems (NYSE - TSYS), a leading provider of mission critical wireless data systems for wireless carriers, governments and intelligence organizations.

Tim is known nationally for his political acumen, particularly regarding his work on key campaigns ranging from gubernatorial to congressional to presidential. His global work for the Clinton/Gore administration has left him with professional and life experiences that will last forever. Today, his passion for legacy energy solutions are top on his agenda and he is working to help Sapphire be the foremost leader in solving one of today’s biggest environmental, economic and political quandaries – energy dependence.

He is an avid fisherman and science junkie. His favorite channel is sci-fi where he frequently gets confused as to whether the aliens are real or not.

Jaime E. Moreno, P.E. Vice President of Projects

Jaime E. Moreno, P.E.

Jaime joined the Sapphire team in January 2009 . He leads Sapphire’s commercial development and engineering teams to plan, design and build the next generation of algae-to-energy farms in the United States and other globally strategic locations. He joins Sapphire Energy with more than 25 years of experience in the field of engineering where he managed the planning, design, construction and operations of many complex and noteworthy civil, environmental, transportation, water resources and energy projects. Prior to Sapphire Energy, Jaime served as Chief Operating Officer and Principal Engineer of AMEC Geomatrix, Inc., Managing Principal for AKM Consulting Engineers, and Engineering Manager for Church Engineering, Inc.. Jaime received his M.S. in Civil Engineering from Stanford University and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a Registered Civil Engineer and a Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Dean Venardos Vice President of Operations

Dean Venardos

Dean comes to Sapphire Energy from Western Refining, where he served as the operations director for a 70,000-barrels-per-day refinery on the East Coast. Dean has more than 30 years' experience with Amoco and BP, and held several roles at BP's largest refinery including division manager, technical management, strategic business planning, as well as commercial interface between plant, supply, and trading departments. Dean spent the first half of his career at the Amoco Research and Development center developing and applying new technology in the areas of synthetic fuels, petroleum processing, and environmental controls.

A respected industry executive, he holds five processing patents and has published in numerous journals. Venardos earned his B.S. in chemical engineering from Northwestern University and M.S.ChE from the University of Connecticut.

Jim Butler Vice President of Legal Affairs and Intellectual Property

Jim Butler

Jim joined Sapphire as Senior Director of Intellectual Property in February of 2009. In late 2011, Jim was named Vice President of Legal Affairs and Intellectual property.Jim joined Sapphire from Amylin Pharmaceuticals where he was Sr. Director for Patents. Jim started his legal career in private practice at Senniger, Powers, Leavitt and Roedel in St. Louis, MO where he provided intellectual property services to a variety of clients including Fortune 500 companies, start-ups and academic institutions. In addition to his work at Amylin, Jim has held a variety of positions in industry including at the Torrey Mesa Research Institute (Syngenta) and Diversa, Corp (now Verenium). Jim also served as a judicial clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the Idaho Supreme Court. Prior to his legal career, Jim was a tenured faculty member at the University of Idaho where he conducted research and taught classes in physiology and development biology. He is an author on numerous scientific papers and book chapters. Jim received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis and his J.D. from the University of Idaho. Jim also completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Harvard Medical School.

Sapphire Energy Story - Lab