The chancellor had paid a considerable price but was finally free to remarry. The wedding of Robert Dynes and Frances Hellman was held in the San Francisco area in May 1998. It was first announced in Neil Morgan's Union-Tribune column three months earlier. "Dynes and physicist Frances Hellman will wed in May. The daughter of a San Francisco financier, she's become a hard-line Padres fan," wrote Morgan. The reference to Hellman's father provided San Diegans with their first public inkling that the marriage might be something more than a typical union.
In San Francisco, the society headlines were larger. "Chris and Warren Hellman's daughter, Frances, a physics professor at UC San Diego, and the university's chancellor, Robert Dynes, were married May 2," the Chronicle reported. "The Hellmans hosted the Ballet's dinner-dance (Walt Tolleson Orchestra) celebrating its 65th season recently at the St. Francis, and the auxiliary's dinner before last week's Ballet School performances at the Palace of the Legion of Honor raised $100,000."
Though most San Diegans were still in the dark, San Franciscans knew that the UCSD chancellor had married well indeed. Dyne's new father-in-law was F. Warren Hellman of San Francisco -- an heir to the Levi Strauss blue jeans fortune. Hellman serves on that company's board and is one of America's wealthiest and most successful investment bankers and venture capitalists. The former chairman of Shearson Lehman Hutton in New York, Hellman returned to his hometown of San Francisco in 1984 to set up, with friend Tully Friedman, the firm of Hellman & Friedman LLC, a private investment company. The firm has made billions of dollars for its partners. (Though Friedman left the firm in January 1997, it still bears his name.)
Hellman, 65, is the great-grandson of one of the founders of the Wells Fargo and Security Pacific banks and is also distantly related to a Lehman Brothers founder, according to a 1990 account in Forbes magazine. At age 28, the magazine says, Hellman become the youngest partner in Lehman Brothers history.
Besides his business career, Hellman and his wife are well known as big contributors to political and philanthropic causes. During Democrat Willie Brown's hotly contested bid to be reelected mayor of San Francisco last fall, Hellman was said to be a prime donor to San Franciscans for Sensible Government, a pro-Brown political action committee that raised an undisclosed amount on behalf of the mayor. In all, independent expenditures for Brown amounted to more than $1 million, according to an account in the San Francisco Examiner. The expenditures, or so-called "soft money," exploited a disclosure loophole in the city's campaign-contribution limits, bringing criticism from campaign-finance reformers who argued that big labor and business had corrupted the city's political process by hiding their big-money donations.
"We used to talk about candidates buying elections," San Francisco supervisor Leland Yee told the Examiner. "Now we have independent expenditure committees buying the elections for them -- and the candidates get off scot-free."
A big beneficiary of the Hellmans' philanthropy has been the University of California. In December of last year, the couple gave the San Francisco branch of the university $5 million to endow faculty research projects, according to the Journal of Philanthropy, and over the years have contributed much more. In 1995, Hellman and his wife reportedly gave a similar amount to UC Berkeley, his alma mater. According to UCSD's public affairs office, the Hellmans have also given the UCSD Foundation at least $500,000.
Critics say Hellman has used his philanthropy and political giving to build a personal power base within the UC administration and its Board of Regents. He can pull strings, they claim, that others can't.
Hellman encountered controversy last year after a 1997 merger between the University of California San Francisco and Stanford University hospitals that he'd engineered went sour. Hellman, who'd written a 1996 report on financial problems at the UCSF hospital, was appointed to the board of the combined institution, called UCSF Stanford Health Care. But the cost savings that Hellman had touted failed to occur, and expenses of the merger soared.
The price of integrating the computer systems of the two hospitals jumped from an estimated $25 million to $126 million, and low-paying jobs were eliminated, while upper-level managers with fat salaries were added to the burgeoning payroll. Top officers of the hospital were seen taking limousines to work, and care for indigent patients was cut to the bone. The heat on university officials became so great that the deal is now being unwound, but not before Hellman reportedly tried to block a state audit of the troubled venture.
Hellman also drew scrutiny in October 1997, when it was revealed that in 1996 he and his son Marco had made political contributions to two members of the board that runs the California Public Retirement System, known as Calpers. According to Venture Capital Journal, Hellman gave $5000 to California controller Kathleen Connell, who was preparing for a gubernatorial bid, and $1500 to then-state treasurer Matt Fong, who was running for U.S. Senate against Barbara Boxer. Marco Hellman gave Fong $1500. Both Connell and Fong were voting members of Calpers. According to Venture Capital Journal, Calpers was Hellman's single biggest limited partner, holding some 10 percent of Hellman & Friedman's funds.
In addition to the Hellmans, the magazine reported, then-partner Tully M. Friedman gave $4500 to Fong in 1995 and 1996, and Matthew Reed Barger, an invoice manager at the firm, donated $1900 to Fong in 1996.
Hellman told the magazine that the donations were made by the individual donors personally, not by Hellman & Friedman. "Basically, we have an absolute rule here that the firm does not make political contributions. I contributed almost $60,000 in 1996 to various candidates. They're just all over the place. Essentially, our rule is, one, we do not make political contributions as a firm, nor do we reimburse anybody for making political contributions."
Through Hellman & Friedman and various partnerships it has created, Hellman has invested in such companies as New York advertising agency Young & Rubicam, making huge profits. In the case of Y&R, Hellman's original investment returned over $1 billion to a partnership known as Hellman & Friedman Capital Partners III, a $1.5 billion "private equity fund" formed in 1995. The company has also had success with a leveraged buyout of Levi Strauss as well as with its investments in high-tech and media companies.