After nearly 20 years at Lehman in New York, he started several money management businesses, including Hellman & Friedman in San Francisco, one of the country’s most successful private equity funds.
Mr. Hellman grew up in San Francisco and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, where he played varsity water polo. After graduating from Harvard Business School in 1959, he joined Lehman Brothers, where his uncle, Frederick L. Ehrman, was a senior executive and later chairman.
An aggressive dealmaker at Lehman, Mr. Hellman earned the nickname Hurricane Hellman. At 26, he became the youngest partner in the firm’s history, and in 1973, at 39, president
After leaving Lehman in 1977, Mr. Hellman moved to Boston, where he helped start two investment firms: Hellman, Jordan, a manager of stock portfolios; and a venture capital fund that invested in start-up technology companies. That fund, now called Matrix Partners, was an early backer of Apple Computer.
After moving back to San Francisco, Mr. Hellman and Tully Friedman, an investment banker at Salomon Brothers, started Hellman & Friedman in 1984. He said he had set out to build a firm that did the exact opposite of Lehman, which he described as nasty and corrosive.
With Hellman & Friedman he orchestrated its buyout of Levi Strauss as well as its investments in the Nasdaq and the advertising company Young & Rubicam. Today the firm’s holdings include the media companies Getty Images and Nielsen.
Mr. Hellman’s wife of 56 years, Chris, survives him, as do four children, Mick, Tricia Gibbs, Frances Hellman and Judith Hellman; 12 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.