Monday, December 19, 2011
– Warren Hellman, founder of the popular Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and member of The Wronglers, died at 77 in San Francisco on Sunday after battling leukemia.
"Musicians and music lovers have lost a truly good friend," said Jimmie Dale Gilmore, a member of The Wronglers. "Warren's boundless enthusiasm, humor and generosity added up to an enormous gift for thousands of people. He and I were kindred spirits when it came to music, and I feel extremely fortunate to have known and worked with him."
Hellman, who made his money in investing, met Gilmore during in 2002, the second year of what was then known as The Strictly Bluegrass Festival. The two men shared a love of early American folk and bluegrass music and in early 2011, they released "The Wronglers with Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Heirloom Music."
Originally started by Hellman as a music-lover's gift to his city the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival has come to be appreciated world-wide. Last year, the free to the public festival attracted more than 750,000 people over 3 days, and showcased such a diverse lineup as The Flatlanders (with Joe Ely, Butch Hancock and Gilmore), Steve Earle, Randy Newman, Elvis Costello, Patti Smith, John Mellencamp, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Robert Plant and Emmylou Harris.
Last week, the city of San Francisco renamed Speedway Meadow, the site of the festival, Hellman's Hollow. Hellman also established a trust that will allow the continuation of the Hardly Strictly Festival for years to come.
He was also a backer of Slim's and the Great American Music Hall venues in San Francisco, and a major donor to the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, Cal.
Hellman headed Lehman Brothers in New York before moving back home to San Francisco and opening a money management business, Hellman & Friedman, one of the country's most successful private equity funds.
"Impish and informal, the wiry Mr. Hellman was something of a free spirit," wrote The New York Times. "With his frayed khakis and cowboy shirts, Mr. Hellman stood in stark contrast to his more buttoned-down private equity peers."
Born on July 25, 1934 in Manhattan, Hellman grew up in San Francisco and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. Following graduation from Harvard Business School in 1959, he joined Lehman Brothers, where he quickly earned a respected reputation as an aggressive and fiercely competitive dealmaker, earning the nickname, Hurricane Hellman. He became the youngest partner in the firm's history at the age of 26, and in 1973, at the age of 39, he became president.
He remained at Lehman Brothers until 1977, when he moved to Boston and turned his attention to investing. One of his early firms, now called Matrix Brothers, was an early backer of Apple Computers.
In 1984, he returned to San Francisco and along with Tully Friedman began Hellman & Friedman.
Hellman is survived by his wife of 56 years, Chris, and his four children, Mick, Tricia Gibbs, Frances Hellman and Judith Hellman; 12 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.