Steve Forbes, Forbes Staff
Even though friends knew Ted Forstmann had been diagnosed with the same illness that felled his younger brother, Nick, several years ago, his death Sunday, at age 71, was still a shock. Ted was an inspiring, larger-than-life figure who exuberantly personified the spirit of American capitalism.
I got to know Ted in the early 1990s when he played a crucial role in the launch of Empower America, a reform organization founded by Jack Kemp, Bill Bennett and Jeane Kirkpatrick. He was already a legend in the world of finance, having been a pioneer in the leveraged-buyout business. He recognized that a number of large U.S. companies were ill-run and that outside investors could bring in razor-sharp management, which could quickly enhance the current and long-term values of sleepily managed companies.
Empower America became an activist think tank that aggressively promulgated pro-growth ideas exemplified by Ronald Reagan. It provided critical grist for the mill that enabled Republicans to win both houses of Congress in the 1994 midterm elections, the first time the GOP had achieved such a feat in more than 40 years. But if it hadn’t been for Ted’s down-to-earth skills and ability to raise capital, Empower America would never have gotten off the ground.