Henry L. Hillman (born December 25, 1918) is an American billionaire businessman, investor, civic leader, and philanthropist. He is chairman of The Hillman Company, a family office and investment company headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and owned by the Hillman family. He chairs the board of trustees of Hillman Family Foundations. which manages 18 named foundations.
Henry Lea Hillman was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was the fifth child and second son of John Hartwell Hillman, Jr. (1880–1959) and Juliet Cummins Lea Hillman (1885–1940).His father built upon his own father’s small iron brokerage firm to create a diversified industrial operation with holdings in coal and coke, steel and utilities, energy, transportation, real estate, and banking.Hillman attended Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, The Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, and Princeton University,where he earned an A.B. degree in geology in 1941.He enlisted in the Navy before the United States entered World War II in December 1941 and served first as an aide to Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs, chief of the Bureau of Naval Personnel. He became a Naval aviator in 1942, holding the rank of lieutenant and serving until after the war’s end in 1945.
In January 1946, Hillman joined Pittsburgh Coke & Chemical, which produced and sold coke, merchant pig iron, and such coal-derived byproducts as activated carbon.J. H. Hillman & Sons (later renamed The Hillman Company) was the majority shareholder of this publicly traded firm. As vice president and a director, Henry expanded the company’s manufacture and sale of finished chemicals and plasticizers. He became president of Pittsburgh Coke in 1955.As a director of Pittsburgh’s Colonial Trust Company, he worked with his father in 1959 to negotiate the consolidation of smaller banks and trust companies into Pittsburgh National Bank, ancestor of PNC Financial Services, today one of the largest financial institutions in the United States.Hillman served as a director of Pittsburgh National Bank from its founding until 1988.
The death of his father in 1959 put Hillman in charge of Hillman family holdings, which he expanded many fold. Years in advance of the growing market in private equity, he sold off industrial and chemical operations, took Pittsburgh Coke private, and remade Hillman into a diversified investment company.Just several of the scores of companies acquired and sold between the 1960s and 1990s were Marion Power Shovel Company, Copeland Refrigeration Corp., American Flyers Airline Corporation, Bahnson Service Company, Global Marine Systems, Joseph Magnin Co.,Shakespeare Company, Read-Rite Corporation, Texstar Corporation, Perrigo, Exide, and Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.”
One of the first to invest in private equity funds, Hillman in 1972 became a founding limited partner in the first venture capital fund of the firm Kleiner Perkins (Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers).Through this fund and others, as well as directly, Hillman invested in Genentech, Tandem Computers, Hybritech, and numerous other high-tech start-ups in the Silicon Valley and elsewhere. The Hillman Company was the largest single venture capital investor in the country during the early 1980s.
In 1976, Hillman became the first limited partner in the leveraged buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR). Through KKR, Hillman participated in the buyouts of, among others, American Forest Products Corporation; L. B. Foster Company; Fred Meyer; Beatrice Companies, Inc. (Beatrice Foods); Duracell; and RJR Nabisco. The Hillman Company also became what Forbes magazine described as “one of the country’s largest, and lowest-profile, commercial real estate developers”, with properties from California to Florida. Energy exploration and investments during this same period included early and active development of coal-bed methane, a dynamic new segment of the petroleum industry.
He stepped down from active management of The Hillman Company in 2004. As chairman, he remains active in the company’s governance.
Hillman was inducted into the Private Equity Hall of Fame. He was named Industrialist of the Year in 1968 by the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Society of Industrial Realtors and Business Leader of the Year in 1989 by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce.