Investment Team

Henry L. Hillman

Henry L. Hillman was born in Pittsburgh in 1918 and died in 2017. He attended Princeton University, where he majored in geology. He entered the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked and became an aviator. He left the Navy at the end of the war and, in 1946, joined the Hillman organization, which then was headed by his father, J. H. “Hart” Hillman. Henry assumed leadership when his father died in 1959.

Henry took risks in business. Under his leadership, The Hillman Company sold its largely industrial operations and became a diversified investment company. One of the earliest investors in private equity funds, the company was a founding investor in the first funds of both Kleiner Perkins and Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts (KKR), betting on them before they had a track record. An early investor in Genentech, Tandem Computers, Hybritech, and other high-tech start-ups, The Hillman Company during the early 1980s was the largest single venture capital investor in the country.

During his career, Henry served on the boards of a number of public companies, including General Electric Company, Chemical Bank, Merck & Company, Cummins Engine, and PNC Financial Corp. Henry provided local civic leadership as well, serving as president of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development from 1967 to 1970.

Henry stepped down from active management of The Hillman Company in 2004. As chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors, he remained active in the company’s governance. He also took a very active role in the family’s philanthropic activities as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Hillman Family Foundations.


A Strong Foundation in Industry and Banking

John Hartwell Hillman, Jr.

John Hartwell Hillman, Jr.

A Strong Foundation
in Industry and Banking

John Hartwell ‘Hart’ Hillman, Jr. took over the company at his father’s death in 1911. Energetic and entrepreneurial, Hart expanded into coal mines, coke production, barge building, blast furnaces, towboats, chemical plants, and real estate. This expansion and diversification carried the company through turbulent times, including the Great Depression of the 1930s—when more than 30,000 other businesses failed. Hart acquired interests in iron and steel producers and fabricators, oil, and banks. As a major stockholder, he played an important role in the development of Texas Gas Transmission Corporation. He was instrumental in consolidating smaller banks and trust companies into Pittsburgh National Bank—today PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., the sixth largest bank holding company in the United States.

A Pioneer in Private Equity

A Pioneer in Private Equity

Hart’s son, Henry Hillman joined J.H. Hillman & Sons in 1946. After his father’s death in 1959, Henry became president of the Hillman interests. He recognized that although the company’s industrial operations were successful, they were too modest to compete with much larger companies in what he accurately foresaw as a dramatically changing financial landscape. He immediately began to parlay these “sub-optimal” operating companies into opportunistic equity investments in an array of enterprises ranging from power shovels, rooftop air conditioners, a charter airline to deepwater oil drilling and pneumatics, prepared foods, sporting goods, generic pharmaceuticals, hospital supplies, copy machines, and hundreds more. Under his leadership, Hillman developed real estate from coast to coast, and became an early energy player in wind power as well as deep-well drilling for methane gas.

The Hillman Company was a pioneer in the modern financial industry as that industry emerged as a force in the American economy. Taking a chance on innovators in new technology, Hillman in 1972 became a partner in the first venture capital fund of Kleiner Perkins, taking half of that fund. Again betting on people and innovative ideas, Hillman became a founding investor in the private equity buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., taking one third of the first fund in 1976. Through Kleiner Perkins and others, as well as directly, Hillman invested in such companies as Tandem Computers, Genentech, and Hybritech. By the early 1980s Hillman had become the largest single venture capital investor in the United States.

History as a Competitive Edge

History as a Competitive Edge

The reinvention of The Hillman Company that began with Henry Hillman’s early endorsement of private equity as a new industry continued as the investment landscape changed in the 1990s and 2000s. The company successfully transitioned not only to indirect investing through private equity funds but also to co-investing, and in recent years its investment activity is generally limited to investing in the world’s top private equity firms and co-investing with those firms when the opportunity arises. Hillman sources and develops relationships with private equity funds around the globe—and to these relationships it brings a multi-generational legacy of accumulated deal expertise … 125+ years of successful investment activity.