Hellman Family Statement
December 18, 2011
F. Warren Hellman, Beloved Father, Husband, Brother; Private Equity Pioneer; Founder of San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Dies at 77
From Warren's Four Kids:
"Our Dad passed away today after fighting leukemia over the last year. We love him deeply, and he loved and supported us in every way possible. His loss leaves a huge hole in our lives that will never be filled.
"Dad set an inspiring example for us. He was truly a Renaissance man, excelling in so many aspects of life. He was a phenomenally successful businessman, a lifelong competitive athlete, a community leader, a dedicated musician, and fiercely devoted to his family. He and Mom were the yin and yang that made our family whole, complementary to each other in so many ways. Dad set high standards, pushing us to be individuals pursuing our own goals, and Mom embraced those standards and provided the loving nest that held us together.
"Dad taught us to find our own path and not just follow the crowd. To give a single example, we were all ski racers, and in order to get really good training without compromising our education, he and Mom joined some other parents and started a school in their homes close to a ski resort. That school became one of the foremost ski racing academies in the country, and inspired Tricia to go on and start the Sugar Bowl Ski Academy.
"Yet he also displayed an amazing sense of humor. He had the deepest repertoire of mildly inappropriate jokes of anyone we ever met, wrote some truly humorous bluegrass songs, and once made Frances laugh until milk came out her nose. You could always crack him up with a Monty Python line ("NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition"). Towards the end of his illness he began introducing himself to strangers as 'Luke ... Luke Emia' and referring to his chemo medicine as 'Retuxif**k'.
"He kept his commitment to all his activities right up until his death, going for an early morning walk (against the recommendations of his family and his doctors!!) on the day of his final admission to the hospital, playing his newest song, 'The Big Twang Theory', on the banjo for the medical staff at UCSF, and doing his Egyptian pose while rolling down the hall with his IV pole.
"Dad was also a devoted husband to our beloved Mom, who is struggling with Alzheimer's Disease. When she was diagnosed, he was devastated. In his usual problem-solving manner he was determined to help her deal with her disease in the most caring way, and he was inspired to support research to spare others from the ravages of this terrible disease.
"Dad also leaves behind 12 grandkids and one great-grandkid. Each had their own special relationship with Dad. With some he shared his love for horseback riding, with some his fondness for skiing, with some his musical interests, and with all his devotion to irreverent jokes.
"We owe endless gratitude to so many people who helped Dad and supported us during the course of his medical crisis. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! We love you.
"And yes, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival will go on!"
From Warren's Sister Nancy:
"My brother was a force of nature and left his impact on practically every corner of San Francisco. His life's work benefited such diverse areas as education, political reform, the arts and science. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and his enormous philanthropy will leave a lasting imprint on the city that he loved.
"Warren wasn't afraid to get involved with the toughest issues, like the merger of UCSF and Stanford, the building of the underground garage in Golden Gate Park, or Mills College when they briefly decided to go co-ed in 1990. He always called me on the way home from work to tell me what he had done and I would say, 'Why in the world would you want to do that?' His answer would be that it would be the right thing for the institution. Often these things got done solely by the force of his personality."
Services, How to Show Support:
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the San Francisco Free Clinic (sffc.org
Background on Warren:
Mr. Hellman was born in New York City in 1934 and grew up in Vacaville and San Francisco, CA. He was the son of the late Marco and Ruth Hellman and the great-grandson of Isaias W. Hellman, the president of Wells Fargo Nevada National Bank. Mr. Hellman was a graduate of Lowell High School in San Francisco, the University of California at Berkeley (1955) and Harvard Business School (1959). He served in the U.S. Army from 1955 to 1957. Mr. Hellman was a loving husband and a devoted family man. He is survived by Chris, his wife of 56 years, his sister Nancy Bechtle, his four children Frances, Tricia, Mick and Judith, 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He was very proud of his children and all that they have accomplished. Frances Hellman is Chair of the Physics Department at UC Berkeley, Tricia Gibbs, MD is co-founder of The San Francisco Free Clinic, Mick Hellman is Founder and Managing Partner of HMI Capital and a Senior Advisor of Hellman & Friedman, and Judith Hellman, MD is an Associate Professor at UCSF.
Mr. Hellman was a pioneer in the private equity business. After a distinguished career on Wall Street, he co-founded Hellman & Friedman in 1984 with Tully Friedman, and built it into one of the industry's leading private equity firms. Since its inception, the firm has raised over $25 billion of committed capital and has generated some of the industry's most outstanding investment results. Mr. Hellman was critical in many of the firm's investments, including Levi Strauss & Company, VoiceStream Wireless, Young & Rubicam, Eller Media and The NASDAQ Stock Market.
Mr. Hellman joined Lehman Brothers in 1959 after graduating from Harvard Business School, and went on to become, at age 26, the youngest partner in the firm's history. From 1962 to 1977 he served in various capacities at the firm culminating in becoming its President in 1973 at age 39. In 1977, he left Lehman and moved to Boston to co-found one of the early firms in the venture capital industry which subsequently became Matrix Partners and remains a leading venture firm today. During his tenure, Matrix was an early investor in such notable start-ups as Apollo Computer, Stratus Computer, Continental Cable (now Comcast), and Apple Computer. Also in Boston, Mr. Hellman co-founded Hellman, Jordan Management Company, a specialty equity investment manager.
Mr. Hellman was a noted philanthropist with strong roots in a wide variety of local causes. He was an active participant within the community and gave generously of his time and experience to make a difference. His extraordinary generosity touched the lives of many. Mr. Hellman served as a past Chairman and Trustee Emeritus of The San Francisco Foundation and was a well-known contributor to St. Anthony's Foundation, Golden Gate Park and the San Francisco Free Clinic, which was founded by his daughter and son-in-law, Drs. Tricia and Richard Gibbs. He was an avid proponent of public education and was a proud public school graduate himself. When he was Chair of the San Francisco Foundation, he convened the San Francisco School Alliance bringing the business community and funders to support and partner with the San Francisco Unified School District. He served as a member of the Advisory Board of the Walter A. Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and Trustee of the UC Berkeley Foundation. Mr. Hellman was also a contributor to the UC Berkeley aquatics program where he helped endow the Men's Water Polo Program, and instituted the Hellman Fellows Program at the University of California. In addition to serving the community at large, Mr. Hellman was also a member of the Board of Directors & Executive Committee for the Jewish Community Federation and Chair of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund. He was Founder and Chairman of the Board of The Bay Citizen, a non-profit local news organization, and a Trustee Emeritus of the Brookings Institution.
Mr. Hellman had a deep love of music, none more than bluegrass, the appreciation of which he always said was "hard-wired". Later in his life, he became an accomplished 5-string banjo player, and had an old-time band called The Wronglers with whom he performed all over the U.S. The Wronglers collaborated with country singer Jimmie Dale Gilmore this year and released the CD "Heirloom Music". Mr. Hellman was the Founder and principal sponsor of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco - an annual three-day, free music festival which brings together over 90 leading and emerging music groups and draws over 750,000 attendees each year. Speedway Meadow, the site of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, was recently renamed "Hellman's Hollow" in honor of Mr. Hellman. In 2005, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Mr. Hellman and his wife Chris, a former dancer, were generous supporters of the arts, including the San Francisco Ballet, where Chris chaired the Board for many years and helped make the San Francisco Ballet one of the leading ballet companies in the world today. Mr. Hellman also supported San Francisco's ODC contemporary dance company and served as Chairman of Voice of Dance.
Mr. Hellman played an active role in civic affairs in San Francisco and California. Dedicated to the well-being of San Francisco citizens, he served as a board member of the Committee on JOBS, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and Bay Area Council. Most recently, he was a pivotal member in organizing support behind Proposition C, legislation aimed at reforming San Francisco's pension system. He fostered collaborative efforts among the various constituencies to reach a joint solution. He was not afraid of political controversy, however, and led and provided financial leadership to the critical and successful effort to build an underground parking structure in Golden Gate Park, helping to keep the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum in their historic locations.
Mr. Hellman was also an accomplished endurance athlete and skier. He twice completed the Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile foot race from Squaw Valley to Auburn, CA, and five times completed the Tevis Cup, a 100-mile horse race over the same course. He was also a five-time National Champion in Ride and Tie (combination of cross-country running and endurance horseback riding) in his age group and a varsity athlete in Water Polo at UC Berkeley. He was an avid skier throughout his life and was an accomplished national caliber master ski racer. He co-founded the Stratton Mountain School, a Vermont-based winter sports academy in 1972 and went on to serve as president of the U.S. Ski Team in the late 1970's. He was a board member of the Sugar Bowl ski resort in Lake Tahoe, CA and is credited with helping to revitalize the resort and support the building of its world class ski racing academy. An avid runner his whole life, Mr. Hellman clocked several miles every day during his very early morning San Francisco neighborhood runs.