F. Warren Hellman Dies at 77

Investor Financed Buyouts of Y&R, Levi Strauss, More

Published on .

F. Warren Hellman, a pioneer of the private-equity industry who helped orchestrate a leveraged buyout of Levi Strauss & Co., and who financed the restructuring of Y&R, Nasdaq, Formula One Holdings and Getty Images, has died at 77.

Mr. Hellman died yesterday from complications associated with leukemia, according to a statement from Hellman & Friedman, the buyout firm he co-founded. Along with Tully Friedman, Mr. Hellman started doing private-equity deals in 1984 before the industry had a name. His wealth, the amount of which has remained undisclosed, helped finance San Francisco museums and ballet, a local health clinic and the Bay Area News Project, a nonprofit news organization.

Mr. Hellman joined Wall Street 's Lehman Brothers in 1959 after graduating from Harvard Business School. His uncle, Frederick L. Ehrman, was chairman of the board, and Mr. Hellman's fast rise -- he made partner at 26 -- led to some grumbling that he was the beneficiary of nepotism, the New York Times reported at the time. He became the firm's president in 1973, at 39.

He left Lehman in 1977 to open a venture-capital firm, which became Matrix Partners and was an early investor in Apple before he started Hellman & Friedman. After a string of investments in major companies including Y&R in the mid-1990s, he stepped down as chairman of Hellman & Friedman in 2009 as the firm was closing its latest fund, bringing total capital raised to more than $25 billion.

One of his biggest paydays came in 2007 when Google bought DoubleClick Inc. for $3.1 billion, three times the price his firm paid for the online ad company just two years earlier. In an interview shortly after the deal was announced, Mr. Hellman credited his partners with seeing the growth potential of the market and realizing that DoubleClick was undervalued.

"The people here really nailed it," Mr. Hellman said. "They saw that that part of the business was starting to make really huge jumps in revenue and cash flow."

One of Mr. Hellman's most recent endeavors was the Bay Area News Project, known as the Bay Citizen. It was introduced in 2009 in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley's journalism school and KQED Public Media, as a response to cutbacks in newspaper coverage of City Hall, the courts, law enforcement and the arts, Mr. Hellman said in an interview. It was at least partly up to philanthropists to keep the news industry afloat, he said.

Mr. Hellman invested the first $5 million in the project, which has since raised capital from more than 60 individuals, families and institutions, according to the website. The newsroom produces a twice-weekly Bay Area section of The New York Times.

When asked in a 2007 interview to connect the dots among his work, philanthropy and hobbies, Mr. Hellman said he just did what he loved. "My life has been very unplanned," he said. "It's all been sort of random."

-- Bloomberg News

Most Popular
In this article: