In memoriam: Warren Hellman

Warren Hellman, the co-founder of US buyout firm Hellman & Friedman, has died at the age of 77 after a battle with leukemia.

The death of Warren Hellman follows less than a month after another of the industry’s elder statesmen, Ted Forstmann, passed away.

Brian Powers, chairman of Hellman & Friedman, said in a statement: “Warren was a great mentor, partner and friend, and above all, a great man. He will be deeply missed. His commitment to civic and philanthropic activities and his extraordinary generosity to the many causes he supported will have a lasting impact on our community.”

Hellman co-founded Hellman & Friedman in 1984 with Tully Friedman. The firm has raised more than $25 billion since its inception, it said. Hellman played an active role on the investment side, most notably in companies including iconic jeans brand Levi Strauss & Company and the NASDAQ exchange.

“Warren was absolutely unique, and I was privileged to be his partner and friend,” Friedman, chief executive officer of private equity firm FFL, said in an email statement. “He combined great compassion and the ability to connect with people from all walks of life, with an extraordinary intellect. He was a gifted financier, a great philanthropist and a remarkably creative individual. We will all miss him.”

He previously worked for Lehman Brothers, which he joined in 1959, rising to become the youngest partner in the bank’s history at 26. In 1973 he became president at Lehman at the age of 39.

Hellman plays the banjo

He left the bank in 1977 and moved to Boston, where he co-founded a venture capital group that later became Matrix Partners. One of the firm’s investments during that time was in Apple Computers.

Hellman was also a dedicated philanthropist. He was chairman of the San Francisco Foundation, and contributed to the St Anthony’s Foundation, Golden Gate Park and the San Francisco Free Clinic, according to the statement. Hellman was also a member of the board of directors of the Jewish Community Federation and chaired the Jewish Community Endowment Fund. He was founder and chairman of the Board of The Bay Citizen, a non-profit local news organisation, and a trustee Emeritus of the Brookings Institution.

In his spare time, he indulged a passion for bluegrass music, learning to play the banjo and touring with his band, The Wronglers. He was even known to play to LPs during his firm’s investor days. He was also a keen athlete, twice completing a 100 mile endurance race in California, and was president of the US ski team in the 1970s.

Hellman, 77, leaves behind four children and a wife.