PITTSBURGH - Mellon Financial Corp.'s private equity unit has invested or committed $1 billion since its start in 1996.

Larry Mock, president and chief executive officer of Mellon Ventures Inc., said his unit gets about 5,000 proposals and completes about 50 deals a year, investing only in those companies that meet "stringent qualifications."

The unit, which employs 25 professionals in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York, said about 70% of its investments go directly into operating companies, while 30% are put into private equity partnerships.

This year Mellon Ventures has committed $350 million to direct investments and $175 million to other venture funds. In 1996 it made $30 million of investments.

The unit's portfolio includes PrintCafe Systems, Invesmart, Five Star Food Service, Optiglobe Communications, and Paramount Cards. Companies that have received investments from Mellon Ventures before going public include Internet Capital Group, iXL, Multex, AirNet Communications and Exult.

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