Forstmann Dies At 71

Nov 21 2011 | 8:08pm ET

Private equity pioneer Theodore Forstmann has died at the age of 71.

Forstmann, who founded Forstmann Little & Co. in 1978, had been diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this year. The billionaire died at his home in Manhattan.

Forstmann is credited with dubbing himself and his leveraged buyout colleagues “the barbarians at the gate,” helping create the popular image of the corporate raider. Barbarian though he may have been, he was a very successful one, leading the buyouts of such industry icons as General Instrument, Gulfstream Aerospace and Dr Pepper. His coinage later became the title of a book about a buyout he lost out on, that of RJR Nabisco, to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

A native of Greenwich, Conn., Forstmann studied at Yale University and Columbia Law School. During his first two decades in private equity, he managed a 55% annualized return.

Forstmann never married—although he dated such luminaries as Princess Diana and Padma Lakshmi—but did become the legal guardian of two children from South Africa. He is also survived by two brothers and two sisters.

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