Angel Investor Fred Hoar Dies

With his own brand of wit and camaraderie, Frederick M. Hoar would always command a room when he entered. And no matter how many different venues he spoke at or emceed each year, his signature opening line always garnered a generous laugh: “Hi, my name is Fred Hoar, and that’s spelled F-R-E-D.”

Hoar, an influential Silicon Valley public relations and marketing executive and a technology investor, died Jan. 2 after a three-year bout with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He was 77.

“Fred was a true renaissance man – gifted writer and speaker, talented entrepreneur, brilliant strategist, wonderful family man and bon vivant,” says Heidi Roizen, managing director of Mobius Venture Capital. “Fred could keep a roomful of people laughing and learning like no one else. He always had a new story to tell and an upbeat word to say. The loss of his presence will be felt by so many he has touched.”

Hoar was well known in Silicon Valley’s marketing circles. But he was also recognized as an angel investor.

He co-founded the Silicon Valley Band of Angels in 1995 as a private investment club to help fund early-stage companies. The Band of Angels now has some 150 members. In more than eight years, the group has invested about $100 million in more than 130 venture deals.

Over the years, Hoar served as a director and an advisor for dozens of startups, most recently with Store Sight Systems Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., and NetProspect in San Francisco.

“Fred was someone who understood the critical dynamics of the leaders in Silicon Valley,” says Hans Severiens, co-founder and managing director of the Band of Angels. “He had their trust and confidence and was able to bring people together in a mutually beneficial way.”

Born in Beverly, Mass. in 1926, Hoar served in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946. He earned a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, in American history and literature from Harvard University and a master’s, with honors, in editorial journalism from the University of Iowa. He planned to have a career in journalism and worked for a time as a stringer for the Associated Press. Hoar instead relocated to California from the East Coast in 1969 and began working in technology marketing.

Hoar helped to shape PR and investor relations strategies as he led the marketing departments of some of the seminal technology and consumer companies, such as Fairchild Camera and Instrument, Genentech, Raychem, RCA and Apple Computer Inc.

Among his achievements, in the early 1980s, Hoar served as vice president of communications for Apple, helping to take the company public and launching the Lisa and Macintosh computers.

Hoar was at Apple during Super Bowl XVIII in January 1984, when the company aired a 60-second commercial that introduced the Mac during the third quarter of the game’s TV broadcast. The spot, which played off of George Orwell’s 1984 theme, took aim against IBM and drew praise from computer users. In a 1998 interview (with this reporter while at the San Jose Business Journal), Hoar said company officials were not at all enthusiastic about the ad. He said that upon previewing it, the board fell silent in disbelief.

“No matter how you look at it, it got exposure, resulted in a huge avalanche of orders and is now considered the ad icon of the information age,” Hoar said. “It has shaped the way that advertising has been used since to sell computers.”

In the late 1980s, Hoar joined Miller/Shandwick Technologies and spent 12 years as president of the West Coast division, representing clients such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft Corp. He was promoted to chairman in the mid-1990s and retired from the agency in 2002.

Up until the day before he died, Hoar was working on two books about Silicon Valley. They will reportedly be combined into one, tentatively titled, Shooting Dice.

Most recently, Hoar was a professor of marketing at Santa Clara University, where he taught marketing and branding courses. Last December, the university awarded him with the Extra-Ordinary Faculty Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a faculty member at the Leavey School of Business.

“Fred had wonderful experiences and insights to share with the students,” says Barry Posner, dean of the Leavey School of Business. “He always challenged them to think.”

For his lifetime work as a technology marketing pro, in 1999, PR Week magazine named Hoar one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Public Relations People of the 20th Century.”

“Fred was a Silicon Valley phenomenon who brought a joie de vivre to each one of his endeavors,” says Wilf Corrigan, chairman and CEO of LSI Logic. “He will be impossible to replace.”

Hoar is survived by his wife, Sheila, and daughters Cheryl, Deborah, Donna and Jocelyn.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Mid Peninsula Pathways Hospice Foundation at 65 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025 or the VA Hospital c/o Palo Alto Heathcare System, 3801 Miranda Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94304.

Email Alastair Goldfisher