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Ted Forstmann, R.I.P.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

With a great feeling of loss and sadness, I want to join with so many others to mourn the passing of Ted Forstmann, the brilliant financier, entrepreneur, and free-market capitalist.

A Wall Street Journal editorial from Paul Gigot and a column by Charlie Gasparino in the New York Post chronicle Ted’s great achievements. It was Ted who invented the leveraged buyout, and it was Ted who walked away from the bubble of overleveraged junk bonds. Ted was a major philanthropist, and an education reformer, too.

But Ted also had a spiritual and religious side.

He was a weekly Catholic churchgoer, perhaps unusual for a man of his financial stature. Down through the years, I would often run across Ted at the 7:30 p.m. mass at St. Ignatius Loyola. I believe it was the last mass on Sunday nights on the Upper East Side. Normally I’d go to mass earlier at nearby St. Thomas More, where I was baptized in 1997, or to St. Patrick’s in Redding, Conn. But when all else failed -- and my conscious always calls -- I’d go to St. Ignatius. And there I would be absolutely thrilled to see Ted Forstmann. Typically he would leave a wee bit early after communion, and somehow he’d always see me. He’d give me a friendly finger point, as though he were saying, “This is good. Keep it up, Larry.”

I felt as though God were sending me a signal through Ted Forstmann.

Most years on Good Friday I would see Ted at the Church of Our Savior for Father Rutler’s awesome three-hour sermon on the last words of Christ. Ted was there, and we would have a chance to talk. About God. About gratitude. About the crucifixion and what it meant to our lives. And once again, because Ted was there, I felt even better than I otherwise would. Each year on Good Friday I had the sense that the Lord was telling me through Ted, “Keep it up, Larry. Keep it up.”

Last February I sat next to Ted at a dinner he hosted for family and friends to remember his brother Nick, who had passed away ten years earlier. Nicky Forstmann was himself a brilliant financier who died far too early from cancer.

I spoke that night of the deep relationship I had with Nick, who helped nurture me through my early days of recovery from alcohol and drug abuse. There was no finer man. I remember sitting in St. Patrick’s Cathedral during Nick’s funeral mass. Off to one side of the church, where I cried for almost the entire hour, I wound up holding hands with a woman who was also sobbing uncontrollably. I still don’t know who she was. But most folks in the church that day felt that same sadness.

On the night of Nick’s remembrance, my wife Judy and I had a great talk with Ted, but he seemed a little under the weather. There was none of the Ted Forstmann energy that we’d all come to know and expect. Down through the years, there were so many times when Ted would call to talk about some political or economic disaster, and about what needed to be changed. He’d ask me a question or two, and I’d start to give a considered answer (it was, after all, Ted Forstmann). And then Ted would run with the ball, totally taking over the conversation. When it came to the need for supply-side capitalism and free-market entrepreneurship, Ted was always on target. He saw things way before I did, both good and bad.

It turned out that a month after the Nick Forstmann remembrance dinner, Ted was diagnosed with brain cancer. I spoke to him once more before he passed away.

Monday night, at the Campbell Funeral Chapel in New York, I had a chance to visit with Ted’s two sisters; together we remembered a wonderful man. And extraordinary man. A religious man. His funeral mass will be next Tuesday at St. Patrick’s. I won’t get through it without crying, just as I can’t quite get through this without crying.

But it was God’s great hand that allowed me to know, befriend, and love both Ted and Nick Forstmann. It was my great privilege. I am forever grateful.

May God look out for both of them and may they both rest in peace.

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