Foster Friess

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Foster Friess
Friess in March 2017
Foster Stephen Friess

(1940-04-02)April 2, 1940
DiedMay 27, 2021(2021-05-27) (aged 81)
EducationUniversity of Wisconsin–Madison (BA)
  • Businessman
  • politician
  • philanthropist
  • political donor
Political partyRepublican
Lynnette Estes
(m. 1962)
Military career
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1960–1965

Foster Stephen Friess (April 2, 1940 – May 27, 2021) was an American investment manager and prominent donor to the Republican Party and to Christian right causes. He unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor of Wyoming in the 2018 election, losing in the primary to State Treasurer Mark Gordon.

In 1999, CNBC dubbed Friess one of the "century’s great investors."[1] In a 2001 article, BusinessWeek suggested Friess "may be the longest-surviving successful growth-stock picker, having navigated markets for 36 years, in his own firm since 1974."

Personal life[edit]

Friess was born on April 2, 1940, in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, the son of Ethel (Foster) and Albert Friess.[2] He grew up on a farm, where his father was a cattle rancher.[2] As a student at Rice Lake High School, Friess was valedictorian of his class and a member of the basketball and track teams.[3]

A first-generation college graduate, Friess attended the University of Wisconsin (now University of Wisconsin–Madison), where he earned a degree in business administration. As a student, he served as president of Chi Phi fraternity, enrolled in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, and was named one of the "ten most outstanding senior men." In 1962, he married fellow student Lynnette Estes, with whom he had four children.[4] Friess was a born-again Christian.[5]

Personal style[edit]

Friess in his western-style outfit

Friess often joked about his wealth in public appearances, while at the same time drawing attention to his financial status.[6] In early 2020, he said on his website that his business was worth $15 billion,[7] although in 2012 he had told a reporter that he was not a billionaire.[8] Estimates at that time placed his wealth in the hundreds of millions.[9] At an event to celebrate Friess' 70th birthday, he gave away $7.7 million to the guests' favorite charities.[6] He typically wore a cowboy hat in public. He embraced the Western image as part of moving to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in 1992. He said he made the move because Wyoming's lack of an income tax helped him avoid "increasingly onerous" taxes in Pennsylvania.[6] Progressive website ThinkProgress reported Friess was funding Islamophobic campaigns,[10] while he also made statements for moderate gay rights, citing them as an issue of religious liberty.[11] During a media interview, when asked on the issue of birth control, he said women should simply put an aspirin between their knees rather than take birth control.[12]


After graduating from college, Friess trained to be an infantry platoon leader and served as the intelligence officer for the 1st Guided Missile Brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas. In 1965, he began his investment career, joining the Brittingham family-controlled NYSE member firm in Wilmington, Delaware, where he eventually rose to the position of Director of Research.[4][13][14]

In 1974, Friess and his wife launched their own investment management firm, Friess Associates, LLC. Although success came slowly in its early years, the firm grew to over $15.7 billion in assets managed. Forbes named the Brandywine Fund, a Friess Associates flagship that boasted an average of 20% annual gains in the decade ending in 1990, as one of the decade's top performers.[15]

In 2001, Friess Associates partnered with Affiliated Managers Group (AMG), an asset-management firm, to facilitate succession planning and to spread ownership among its partners. AMG acquired a majority interest in Friess Associates in October 2001 and held a 70% interest as of September 2011. A broad group of Friess partners, including senior management and researchers, held 20% equity ownership, while the Friess family retained 10%.[16] The company was purchased by its employees in 2013.[17]

Political activism[edit]

Excerpt from a pro-Santorum newspaper advertisement funded by Friess ahead of the 2012 Wisconsin primary
Friess speaking at CPAC 2013

Friess was a longtime Republican Party mega-donor, giving millions of dollars to Republican and conservative causes,[18][19] especially on the Christian right.[20][21]

Friess donated $250,000 to Rick Santorum's re-election campaign in 2006, and at least that amount to the Republican Governors' Association.[22] Friess largely funded Santorum's unsuccessful campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.[20] Friess was instrumental in keeping Santorum's flagging campaign alive by financing a super PAC, the Red, White and Blue Fund, which ran television advertisements on behalf of Santorum, who was unable to run a television campaign with his own funds.[23] According to campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission, Friess's contributions to the Red, White and Blue Fund amounted to more than 40% of its total assets, or $331,000 as of December 31, 2011.[24][25]

In the wake of the 2012 New Hampshire Republican primary, and before the South Carolina primary, Friess told Politico that he was "putting together a challenge grant to encourage other wealthy donors to give to the Red, White and Blue Fund, ... he said [the fund] received a $1 million check" the day after the New Hampshire vote.[26] The million-dollar donation was conveyed in four checks between November 2011 and January 2012.[25]

In addition to Santorum's faith, opposition to women’s abortion rights, and hawkish foreign policy leanings, the possibility of defeating incumbent President Barack Obama was a major component of Friess's decision to back Santorum's campaign.[27] Friess reportedly considered major contributions to American Crossroads, the super PAC founded by Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie and former George W. Bush White House strategist Karl Rove.[28][29]

Friess also donated $100,000 to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to help defeat the Democrats' recall effort in 2011. He reportedly invested more than $3 million in conservative commentator Tucker Carlson's The Daily Caller website.[22] At one of the semi-annual, private seminars held by the Koch brothers in June 2011, Friess was recognized for his donation exceeding $1 million to the Kochs' political activities.[30]

While being interviewed by NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell regarding contraception, Friess said, "And this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it's so – it's such – inexpensive, you know, back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly."[25][31]

Friess was also an advisor to Turning Point USA, a conservative youth organization to which he donated seed money.[32]

In October 2017, Friess said he was exploring a possible candidacy for the Senate challenging Wyoming Senator John Barrasso for the Republican nomination,[33] at the request of Steve Bannon.[34] However, in April 2018, he instead decided to enter the crowded Republican field to replace term-limited Governor Matt Mead. Friess was defeated in the primary, coming in second to State Treasurer Mark Gordon by 38,951 votes (33%) to 29,842 (25.3%).[34]


Friess and his wife ran the Friess Family Foundation, which declares its activities as including the support of Christian mobile medical services, sponsoring Water Mission's work to provide clean water in Malawi, and donating to relief and recovery efforts following natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[35]

Friess sponsored a matching grant program to raise $2 million for relief efforts for the 2004 Indonesian tsunami and traveled to the areas most affected by the earthquake and tsunami in order to speak with local church and organization leaders to identify the best efforts to support.[36] He sponsored another matching grant for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, raising more than $4 million.[36]

He supported a YMCA development in Maryvale, Arizona, along with several local mentoring and ministry programs.[37] He was the principal donor behind the Friess Family Community Campus, a $3.7 million complex equipped with football, baseball, softball fields, and a track at Rice Lake High School in his hometown.[38]

Friess also gained fame when news of his 70th birthday party spread.[39] At the lavish event he announced he would give one charity nominated by his guests $70,000. He surprised his guests by giving each of their favorite charities $70,000, totaling over $7 million.[6] In addition, Friess was the primary donor to a Classical Christian school, Jackson Hole Classical Academy, located in Jackson, Wyoming.

Friess won a number of awards for his religious work, including the 2012 Horatio Alger Award from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans,[40] Canterbury Medal from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty,[41][42] the Adam Smith Award from Hillsdale College[43] the Albert Schweitzer Leadership Award from the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Foundation[44] the David R. Jones Award for Leadership in Philanthropy[45] and a Medal of Distinction from the University of Delaware.[46]

According to his website, Friess began in 2016 to support Rachel's Challenge, a non-profit organization started in the name of Rachel Scott, the first victim of the Columbine High School massacre, by matching all donations up to $100,000.[47] Following the 2018 Parkland shooting, in a USA Today op-ed, Friess issued a $2.5 million challenge grant to groups like Sandy Hook Promise and Rachel's Challenge.[48][49]

Later life[edit]

Friess was diagnosed with myelodysplasia, a bone marrow cancer, in September 2020.[50] He died on May 27, 2021, in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the age of 81.[50][51]

Electoral history[edit]

2018 Wyoming gubernatorial Republican primary[52]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Mark Gordon 38,951 33.0
Republican Foster Friess 29,842 25.3
Republican Harriet Hageman 25,052 21.2
Republican Sam Galeotos 14,554 12.3
Republican Taylor Haynes 6,511 5.5
Republican Bill Dahlin 1,763 1.5
n/a Under votes 1,269 1.1
Republican Write-ins 113 0.0
n/a Over votes 46 0.0
Total votes 118,101 100.0


  1. ^ Robert Barker (July 16, 2001). "Buy-and-Hold Isn't His Style". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Archived from the original on July 12, 2001. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Genzlinger, Neil (May 29, 2021). "Foster Friess, Big Donor to Republicans, Dies at 81". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "Rice Lake Sports Hall of Fame: 2003 Inductees". Rice Lake Area School District. October 2, 2009. Archived from the original on October 1, 2015. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Wyoming Philanthropist & Businessman Foster Friess Died Thursday | Cowboy State Daily". Cowboy State Daily. May 27, 2021. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  5. ^ Ruiz-Grossman, Sarah (May 27, 2021). "Foster Friess, Prominent GOP Donor, Dies At 81". HuffPost UK. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d Ben Gose (January 17, 2012). "Wyoming Philanthropist Foster Friess: Hates taxes, opens wallet wide to those in need". WyoFile. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  7. ^ "Foster's Listening Tour - Foster Friess". Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Over 40 years of building and managing a $15 billion business, I never forgot who's money I was investing
  8. ^ Nando di Fino (February 8, 2012). "Millionaire Santorum Backer Foster Friess Tells Erin Burnett He's Not A Billionaire". Mediaite. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  9. ^ Frank, Robert (February 15, 2012). "What is Foster Friess Really Worth?". WSJ. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  10. ^ Adam Peck (February 11, 2012). "Who Is Foster Friess? Seven Facts You Need To Know". Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  11. ^ Geidner, Chris (March 14, 2013). "Republican Mega-Donor Foster Friess Urges Moderate Path On Gay Rights". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  12. ^ Rosenfeld, Arno (May 21, 2018). "307 Politics: Why Foster Friess isn't Donald Trump". Star-Tribune. Archived from the original on July 29, 2018.
  13. ^ Morningstar Mutual Fund 500. McGraw-Hill School Education Group. 1993. p. 7. ISBN 9781556230721.
  14. ^ Imprimis. Vol. 32–34. Center for Constructive Alternatives, Hillsdale College. 2003. ISBN 9781581129052.
  15. ^ "Friess Associates". August 8, 2011. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  16. ^ "Friess Associates : AMG Partnership". n.d. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  17. ^ Baert, Rick (July 4, 2013). "Friess employees to buy back firm from AMG". Pensions & Investments. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  18. ^ Sharon Bernstein & Brendan O'Brien, Wyoming secretary of state set to win Republican gubernatorial primary, Reuters (August 21, 2018): "Republican mega-donor Foster Friess"
  19. ^ Dan Eggen & T.W. Farnam, Super PAC donors revealed: Who are the power players in the GOP primary?, Washington Post (February 21, 2012): "Friess has been a longtime fixture in GOP political circles, giving millions of dollars to, among others, the Republican Governors Association and groups headed by the conservative Koch brothers."
  20. ^ a b Ed Kilgore, Trump Endorses Right-Wing Billionaire Foster Friess in Wyoming Gubernatorial Primary, New York (August 21, 2018): "Friess ... personally bankrolled much of Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign, which posed the one major threat to Mitt Romney’s nomination in the GOP primaries. And his Christian right cultural views...:"
  21. ^ Jo Becker, An Evangelical Is Back From Exile, Lifting Romney, New York Times (September 22, 2012): "Friess is a patron of religious conservative causes"
  22. ^ a b Isikoff, Michael, "Wealthy Wyoming investment fund manager bankrolling pro-Santorum Super PAC", NBC News, January 4, 2012.
  23. ^ Chrystia Freeland, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, New York: The Penguin Press, 2012, p. 246
  24. ^ "FEC Disclosure Form 3 for RED WHITE AND BLUE FUND". Federal Election Commission. December 31, 2011. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
  25. ^ a b c Dan Eggen; T.W. Farnam (February 21, 2012). "Super PAC donors revealed: Who are the power players in the GOP primary?". Washington Post. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
  26. ^ Kenneth P. Vogel, "3 billionaires who'll drag out the race", Politico, 2012-01-12, Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  27. ^ Rutenberg, Jim; Confessore, Nicholas (February 9, 2012). ""Benefactor Likes Santorum Odds" (limited no-charge access)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
  28. ^ Unger, Craig (September 4, 2012). Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove's Secret Kingdom of Power. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 5. ISBN 9781451694932.
  29. ^ Molly Redden, "Pac Man: An eccentric Republican billionaire contemplates his next move", The New Republic, February 8, 2012. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  30. ^ Aronsen, Gavin (September 6, 2011). "The Koch Brothers' Million-Dollar Donor Club". Mother Jones.
  31. ^ Eggen, Dan (February 17, 2012). "Foster Friess aspirin joke shows danger to candidates of outside political groups". Washington Post. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
  32. ^ "This Boy Wonder Is Building the Conservative in an Illinois Garage". May 7, 2015. Retrieved April 27, 2017 – via
  33. ^ Costa, Robert (October 9, 2017). "GOP megadonor Foster Friess exploring a run for U.S. Senate in Wyoming". Washington Post. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  34. ^ a b Jacksonite Friess to run for Wyoming governor, Jackson Hole News and Guide, John Spina, April 21, 2018. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  35. ^ "Carrying Others Burdens – Friess Family Foundation". Archived from the original on February 16, 2012. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  36. ^ a b "Foster Friess". Archived from the original on January 30, 2013. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  37. ^ Debons, Amanda (April 7, 2008). "Opening of Maryvale YMCA celebrated". Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  38. ^ "Board of Education – Buildings and Grounds Committee". Archived from the original on September 16, 2011. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  39. ^ "A Billionaire's Birthday Benefits Charity". November 28, 2010. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  40. ^ "Foster Stephen Friess - 2012 Horatio Alger Award Recipient". Horatio Alger Association. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  41. ^ "2002 Canterbury Medal Gala - Becket". Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  42. ^ "Atlas Economic Research Foundation :: ATLAS FREEDOM DINNER 2004". Archived from the original on July 14, 2007. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  43. ^ Foster S. Friess (May 11, 2002). "What Kind of Society is Good for Business and Investing?". Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  44. ^ "Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership | HOBY". Archived from the original on June 7, 2008. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  45. ^ "The Fund for American Studies – Alumni". Retrieved April 27, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  46. ^ "Medals of Distinction / UDconnection". Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  47. ^ "I'll match every dollar you contribute to Rachel's Challenge up to $100,000 - Foster Friess". Foster Friess. December 19, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
  48. ^ "Foster Friess: We can stop school shootings. I'll match your donations up to $2.5 million". Foster Friess. March 9, 2018. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  49. ^ Kilgore, Ed (April 20, 2018). "GOP Moneybags Foster Friess to Run for Governor of Wyoming". Intelligencer. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  50. ^ a b Gruver, Mead (May 27, 2021). "GOP donor, investor, philanthropist Foster Friess dies at 81". Associated Press. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  51. ^ Eavis, Victoria (May 27, 2021). "GOP megadonor Foster Friess dies at 81". The Cheyenne Post. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  52. ^ Statewide Election Results

External links[edit]