Recently, one of the great founders of the private equity business, Lionel Pincus, passed away. I had the good fortune of knowing Lionel since 1984. He was a helpful mentor to me in forming Olympus. Below is a note I sent to the WSJ upon his passing. Those of you who were lucky enough to know him may appreciate it.
“I first met Lionel Pincus in 1984. I was the 29 year old new man in the job at GE Pension Fund, hired to establish their nascent private equity effort and he was running Warburg Pincus. We met, for the first time, at Kennedy airport to fly to LA to review an investment in the struggling Mattel Corporation. He had made the travel arrangements. We walked on to the plane. I instinctively turned to the right toward coach. He redirected me toward first class, an area named for him. I could feel the pencils sharpening in the GE expense accounting office as we were seated. He made me, a rookie to the field, feel like an old colleague during the long flight. Conversation ranged from his dating of Broadway actresses in his youth to the many challenges he had faced in starting his firm. We exchanged many great stories from our lives and our views of the world. We spent the next day in LA and in Tijuana meeting with management and reviewing manufacturing of Barbie dolls and ironically, Masters of the Universe figures. By the time we boarded to return to NYC two days later it felt as if we had become fast friends for life. We made the Mattel investment and several other profitable ones together. When I left GE to form Olympus Partners, a new private equity firm in 1988, Lionel was exceedingly generous with his time and advice. Olympus is now over two decades old with more than $3.0 billion under management, but traces its roots to the generous help of Lionel Pincus. We lost contact in the late nineties as he phased out of Warburg Pincus, but I shall be forever grateful for the friendship and time he spent with me. I will miss him greatly.”