G.P. William E. Simon: Buyouts Pioneer –

William E. Simon, successful businessman, philanthropist and public official, died June 5 at the age of 72.

Although well established by his political career, Simon truly made his mark on the business world when he established Wesray Corp. with his partner, Raymond G. Chambers. Wesray became one of the forging vehicles in private equity. The firm made acquisitions of corporate divisions in distress, which would then be restructured, relieved of debt and taken to the public market. The prime example of this was Wesray’s successful purchase and initial public offering of Gibson Greeting Cards in the early 1980s, which turned a $140 million profit for the partners.

Soon after the demise of Wesray, Simon founded William E. Simon & Sons, a merchant bank with offices in New Jersey, Los Angeles and Hong Kong.

Following a tour in Japan with the U.S. Army, Simon began his business career with Union Securities in 1952 after earning his BA from Lafayette College. He then served as vice president of Weeden & Co., before moving on to Salomon Brothers where he became senior partner in charge of government and municipal bonds. If that experience gave him a taste of public service, than his next few stints defined it.

In January 1973, Simon became deputy secretary of the Treasury under President Richard Nixon, where he supervised a program of restructuring for U.S. financial institutions. During this time, he was a key player in devising the mandatory oil import program and helped guide the nation through the peak of the oil embargo, despite the consternation of his opponents in the oil industry and the Pentagon. He launched the Federal Energy Administration and was a member of the President’s Oil Policy Committee and the President’s Energy Resources Council, thereby having significant influence on U.S. energy policy.

In 1974, Nixon appointed Simon the 63rd Secretary of the Treasury. He continued in that role throughout the Nixon Administration and into the Ford Administration, until he resigned the post in 1977.

At that time he returned to the business sector in the capacity of consultant to investment firms. Soon after, Simon published his best seller “A Time for Truth” and a few years later, “A Time for Action”.

A Time to Give

A devout Catholic, Simon dedicated a great deal of time and money throughout his life to charity. Among the organizations where Simon volunteered are the U.S. Olympic Committee, the U.S. Olympic Foundation, which he founded in order to support Olympic athlete training, the Covenant House, which cares for runaway teens, the Cardinal Cooke Healthcare Center in East Harlem, and think-tanks The Heritage Foundation and The Hoover Institute. Additionally Simon was a eucharistic minister who served communion to patients at four hospitals in New York and New Jersey and headed up the grant programs of the John M. Olin Foundation. Simon also provided scholarship funds for high school and college students for 4 decades.

Recently he founded the William E. Simon Foundation in Morristown, N.J., which provides grants to programs that intend to “strengthen the free enterprise system and the moral and spiritual values on which it rests: individual freedom, initiative, thrift, self-discipline, and faith in God,” according to the Foundation. Simon left nearly all his wealth to the foundation – approximately $500 million. Simon’s 2 sons and 5 daughters and 3 other members make up the foundation board, under the stipulation that each serves 150 hours of community service every year.

In a recent interview with Philanthropy magazine, Simon said, “If you limit your giving to writing a check, there’s not much satisfaction in that . . . Should donors make time for service? Absolutely. I’ll make time. It’s the most important thing I do.”