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Remembering Warren Hellman — A Private Equity Pioneer

I was saddened to read about the death of San Francisco's 77-year-old Warren Hellman. I had heard the other day that he was gravely ill and was stunned. He died Sunday night.

Warren Hellman - Financier
Photo: Ceth Gwinn | Getty Images
Warren Hellman - Financier

Warren, a marathon runner, helicopter skier, and banjo-playing investment banker, was was genuinely one of the really good guys. He was sort of like the really rich investor next door.

Warren, a pioneer of private equity and co-founder of Hellman & Friedman, came from wealth, gave much of it away, loved the press, and did not take himself too seriously. (Scuffed shoes, stained ties, bluegrass loving — all standard fare for him. Contrast that to the fact that he was also a big benefactor to the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Ballet — and the money behind The Bay Citizen, a local online newspaper.)

I first met Warren and got to know him when I was a business columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle. I enjoyed our annual lunches and much more frequent phone conversations. Most calls started with he to me, "Hoib."

I last interviewed Warren for MarketWatch and The Wall Street Journal in 2007.

Even if you didn't know Warren, I think you'll enjoy it. At the very least, it's a good thumbnail history of how merchant banking turned into leveraged-buyouts turned into private equity.

And a bit of flavor and insight into one of the good guys.

R.I.P., Warren.

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