Although Forstmann was brought up in a wealthy Greenwich, CT family, “as an heir to one of the nation’s biggest textile dynasties” and graduated from Yale, his father’s wool business bankrupted in 1958, forcing Ted to put himself through Columbia law School with proceeds from gambling on bridge.
That competitive edge stuck with him.
The WSJ notes that:
“Along with his brother Nick, Mr. Forstmann was one of the first executives to use debt to acquire companies, fix them and then sell them for millions — and sometimes billions — of dollars in profit. Beginning in the late 1970s, he pooled money from wealthy investors and large pension funds to back his acquisitions while taking 20 percent of the profits, creating a business model that today is known as the private equity industry.”
Over the last 33 years, Ted’s firm, Forstmann Little & Co “made 31 acquisitions and significant investments and returned more than $15 billion to his investors.” Some of the companies Forstmann bought and sold included Dr. Pepper, General Instrument, Topps, and Gulfstream.
Although the famed billionaire never married, he dated Top Chef host Lakshmi, for several years and according to People magazine was also briefly linked to Princess Diana at one point in time.
In the latter years of his life, Forstmann became more interested in giving away his wealth and in February 2011 he signed the Giving Pledge, saying:
“For many years I’ve been quietly doing my own version of ‘the giving pledge’ trying to help disadvantaged children around the world. I’ve always believed that you don’t really talk about giving; you just do it. However, Mayor Bloomberg convinced me that by lending my name to ‘The Giving Pledge’ it would help encourage others to participate and would result in helping many needy causes. I’ve tried to live by the motto ‘you save one life and you save the world.’ I hope that by joining ‘The Giving Pledge’ it will encourage others to do the same.”
Ted Forstmann is survived by his two sons, Siya and Everest, brothers Anthony and John, and sisters Marina Forstmann Day and Elissa Forstmann Moran.