Leonard Green, 69, Buyout Pioneer Dies

Leonard Green, a pioneer in the management-led leveraged buyout industry, passed away unexpectedly on Oct. 25 from complications related to heart surgery. Green, who would have turned 69 last week, had been enjoying his twin passions of opera and golf while on vacation in Italy.

“We are very surprised and very saddened,” says Peter Nolan, a partner with Los Angeles-based Leonard Green & Partners LP. “He really seemed young for his age and was traveling the world and enjoying his life.”

Green burst on to the private equity scene in 1969, when he and two partners launched New York-based merchant bank Gibbons, Green, Van Amerongen. The new firm slowly began gaining traction in the burgeoning LBO market, and by the mid-1980s was involved in buying Budget Rent-A-Car from Transamerica Corp., Foodmaker from Ralston Purina and Bath Iron Works from Congoleum Corp.

In 1989, Green moved to the West Coast to launch Leonard Green & Partners with a $215 million inaugural fund. The firm was not known for being on top of deal volume charts, but was able to continue raising new funds by providing strong returns on its “value investing” strategy in companies like Big Five Sporting Goods and Petco Animal Supplies Inc.

Following a controversial 1999 investment in Rite-Aid Corp., Green pulled back from management duties at his eponymous firm. At the time of his death, he was serving as a senior advisor and was not listed as an active partner on the firm’s most recent fund offering memorandum.

Green received a B.A. from Cornell University in 1955, an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 1956 and a law degree from Loyola University Law School in 1965. He served on a number of corporate boards and was chairman of the Los Angeles Opera. He is survived by a son and a daughter.