Longtime Sugar Bowl leader Warren Hellman passes away at 77
December 20, 2011
DONNER SUMMIT, Calif. – The entire Sugar Bowl community expressed its sadness Monday at the passing of F. Warren Hellman, business pioneer, civic philanthropist, passionate musician, devoted family man and winter sports enthusiast.
As lead investor and member of Sugar Bowl Resort’s board of directors, Hellman was instrumental in providing his tireless dedication, vision and leadership toward the revitalization of the resort, ultimately establishing it as the world-class destination it is today. Hellman, a sharp business mind known for his extraordinary philanthropic generosity and a renegade intellectual wit, was revered equally for his professional accomplishments in business as he was for his charitable endeavors and warm personality that served to bring out the best in everyone he knew.
Born in New York City in 1934 and growing up in Vacaville and San Francisco, Hellman graduated from Lowell High School in San Francisco and went on to study at the University of California at Berkeley. He served in the US Army from 1955 to 1957, and then attended Harvard Business School where he graduated in 1959.
Hellman joined Lehman Brothers shortly thereafter and quickly became the youngest partner in the firm’s history. Moving from Wall Street to San Francisco, he co-founded Hellman & Friedman in 1984, which grew to become a leader amongst private equity firms. A strong supporter of the people of San Francisco, Hellman gave generously with both time and financial support, serving on numerous boards and organizations, including the San Francisco Foundation, St. Anthony’s Foundation, the San Francisco School Alliance, the UC Berkeley Foundation, the Jewish Community Federation, the Brookings Institution, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the Committee on Jobs, and the non-profit Bay Citizen, among others.
Coupling his passion for music with his civic philanthropy, Hellman is perhaps best known for his annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, a free three-day concert in Golden Gate Park that sees more than 750,000 people each year enjoying diverse musical performances from more than 90 different acts, including his own band The Wronglers, which toured the country and even made a guest appearance on NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” Recently, Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park was renamed Hellman’s Hollow, in honor and appreciation of Hellman’s extraordinary contributions to the city.
Hellman was an avid sportsman and competed in ultrarunning competitions such as Tahoe’s Western States Endurance Run, and long-distance horse races including the Tevis Cup, which follows the same course. Hellman combined these two pursuits to become five-time National Champion in “Ride and Tie,” a sport that couples long-distance running with endurance horseback riding.
Hellman’s passion for skiing led him to co-found the Stratton Mountain School, and he also served as president of the U.S. Ski Team in the late 1970s. Hellman’s skiing interests eventually led him to Sugar Bowl Resort atop Donner Summit, where he lent his business acumen and tireless dedication, vision and leadership toward bringing the resort back to its original grandeur. Amongst his many attributes, accolades and accomplishments in business, music and sport, Hellman’s legacy will forever endure at Sugar Bowl with infinite living memories of his enormous contributions. The entire Sugar Bowl community will miss him dearly.
Hellman is survived by his wife Chris of 56 years, his sister Nancy Bechtle, his four children Frances, Tricia, Mick and Judith, 12 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the San Francisco Free Clinic, The Bay Citizen and the San Francisco Alliance. A memorial service will be held at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco on Wednesday, Dec. 21.