Freiss at CPAC 2013
Foster Stephen Friess
April 2, 1940
Rice Lake, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Education||University of Wisconsin–Madison (BA)|
|Net worth||$530 million (2012)|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1960–1974|
|This article is part of a series on|
the United States
Foster Stephen Friess (born April 2, 1940) is an American investment manager and prominent donor to Republican Party and 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 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." In 1999, CNBC dubbed Foster one of the "century’s great investors."
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.
Friess identifies as an evangelical Christian. Despite his professional success, he was unhappy because of a "marriage flirting with divorce and emotionally distant children" and as a result, in October 1978, became a born-again. 
Foster Friess often jokes about his wealth in public appearances, while at the same time drawing attention to his financial status. His website mentions that he managed a $15 billion business, though in other statements he has said he is not a billionaire. Some estimates place his wealth is in the hundreds of millions. Friess once gave away $7.7 million split among every table at an event to celebrate his 70th birthday. He typically wears a cowboy hat in public. He embraced the western image as part of moving to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1992. He has said he made the move because Wyoming's lack of an income tax helped him avoid "increasingly onerous" taxes in Pennsylvania. Liberal website Thinkprogress.org has characterized Friess as funding Islamophobic campaigns, while he has also made statements championing the cause of religious liberty, notably with LGBT issues. He has not backed down on a comment that in the past women who needed birth control put an aspirin between their knees.
After graduating from college, Foster trained to be an infantry platoon leader and served as the intelligence officer for the 1st Guided Missile Brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas. In 1964, 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.
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 ended 1990, as one of the decade's top performers.
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%. The company was purchased by its employees in 2013.
Friess donated $250,000 to Rick Santorum's re-election campaign in 2006, and at least that amount to the Republican Governors' Association. Friess largely funded Santorum's unsuccessful campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. 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. 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.
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. The million-dollar donation was conveyed in four checks between November 2011 and January 2012.
In addition to Santorum's faith, pro-life stance, 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. Friess reportedly considered major contributions to American Crossroads, the Superpac founded by Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie and former George W. Bush White House strategist Karl Rove.
Friess also donated $100,000 to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to help defeat the Democrats' recall effort in 2011. He has reportedly invested more than $3 million in conservative commentator Tucker Carlson's The Daily Caller website. 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.
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."
In October 2017, Friess said he was exploring a possible candidacy for the Senate challenging Wyoming Senator John Barrasso for the Republican nomination, at the request of Steve Bannon. 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 second to State Treasurer Mark Gordon by 38,951 votes (33%) to 29,842 (25.3%).
Friess and his wife run the Friess Family Foundation, whose activities include supporting 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.
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. He sponsored another matching grant for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, raising more than $4 million.
He supported a YMCA development in Maryvale, Arizona, along with several local mentoring and ministry programs. He is 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.
Foster also gained fame when news of his 70th birthday party spread. 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. In addition, Friess is the primary donor to a Classical Christian school, Jackson Hole Classical Academy, located in Jackson, Wyoming.
Friess has won a number of awards for his religious work, including the Horatio Alger Award from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award presented by The Champ in 1999, Canterbury Medal from the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, the Adam Smith Award from Hillsdale College the Albert Schweitzer Leadership Award from the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Foundation the David R. Jones Award for Leadership in Philanthropy and a Medal of Distinction from the University of Delaware.
Beginning in 2016, Friess chose 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. 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.
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