Warren Hellman was the son of an investment banker and great-grandson of Isaias W. Hellman, a Jewish immigrant from Bavaria who served as president of Wells Fargo Nevada National Bank, which later became Wells Fargo, a multinational banking company that operates today.
A San Francisco financier and philanthropist, Warren Hellman served as President of Lehman Bros. in New York, where he worked for nearly 20 years; as founder of Matrix Partners in Boston, a venture capital fund that was an early backer of Apple; and finally as founder of Hellman & Friedman LLC (est. in 1984), where he orchestrated its 1995 buyout of Levi Strauss, the retail clothing company.
Among Mr. Hellman’s many philanthropic investments in San Francisco’s civic and cultural life, he became best known for establishing the famous three-day “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass” Festival, which has attracted over 750,000 people annually since its inception in 2001 and at which his band The Wronglers would also perform. His generosity through this Festival and to myriad San Francisco programs in areas of education and medicine made him a beloved San Francisco icon in his lifetime, and he continues to be remembered as such today.
Mr. Hellman is also known for his Jewish philanthropy, such as his support of San Francisco’s Jewish Vocational Services and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. He himself had a joint bar/bat mitzvah with his daughter in 2009, which connected him more deeply to his Jewish heritage. His dedication to philanthropy led him to join the Koret Foundation board in 2010 at the invitation of Koret President Tad Taube. Together with the Taube and Koret Foundations, Hellman led the effort to bring the Judah L. Magnes Museum collections, whose diverse holdings include art, objects, texts, music, and historical documents about Jews in the global diaspora and American West, to University of California Berkeley’s esteemed Bancroft Library.
The Hellman Family again joined with the Taube and Koret Foundations to support the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, recognizing its unique presentation of 1,000 years of Jewish life, reflecting the family mission of supporting innovative cultural programs.