Foster Friess, a Wyoming businessman who founded an investment firm, made a fortune and gave away a large amount of it to Republican presidential candidates and sometimes stylish charities, who died Thursday in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 81 years old.
His organization, Foster’s Outriders, which confirmed the death, said he had received care at the Mayo Clinic for myelodysplastic syndrome, a disorder of blood cells and bone marrow.
On Twitter, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, who defeated Mr. Friess in Republican government primaries in 2018, said Mr. Friess was “a strong and firm voice for Republican and Christian values.”
Friess’s career as governor was his only attempt at the main elected office. In politics he was best known for his donations, particularly the presidential bids for Rick Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, in the 2012 and 2016 campaigns after Santorum left the race. of 2016, Friess became one of the first Republican megadonors to embrace Donald J. Trump.
But for many, the most important support they gave Mr. Friess, an evangelical Christian, and his wife, Lynnette, was to charities. Foster’s Outriders and the Lynn and Foster Friess Family Foundation have provided scholarships, funded work for the homeless, supported water projects in Africa and more. His organization said Friess had donated $ 500 million during his lifetime.
His 70th birthday party in 2010 in Jackson Hole, Wyo, where he lived much of the year, was a theme of legend. The website wyofile.com described it in 2011:
“In the invitations to the party, Friess, a born-again Christian, had asked guests to identify their favorite charity that reflected the values of their favorite Galatian date:“ Bring the burdens of each and every one of them. in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. He promised to give $ 70,000 to the most worthy nominee.
When it came time to announce the winner, servers at the Four Seasons Resort, where the party was held, distributed envelopes to guests.
“Friess asked the lucky winner to get up and shout and have the other guests sit down,” the account continued. “Then he sat down and waited for the chaos.”
When people opened the envelopes, someone from all the tables stood up and shouted, “I won!” It had funded all applications, at a cost of $ 7.7 million.
Foster Stephen Friess was born on April 2, 1940, in Rice Lake, Wis. Her father, Albert, was a rancher and her mother, Ethel (Foster) Friess, was a housewife.
“He didn’t come out of nowhere,” he told The New York Times in 2018 during his campaign to govern when asked if he himself could be considered one of the “elites” he faced. “My mother left school on the eighth to harvest cotton and save the family farm. My father had a high school education.
He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and served in the military as an intelligence officer for a guided missile brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas.
After working for several years in finance, he founded the investment management company Friess Associates in 1974 and was soon regarded as a first-rate stock selector. Its flagship asset, the Brandywine Fund, rose to more than $ 15 billion. It sold a controlling stake in Friess Associates to the Group of Affiliated Managers in 2001.
On the political side, Mr Friess did more than support the candidates. In 2010, he was a founding investor of The Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson and the conservative opinion and news website of Neil Patel.
In 2012, Mr. Friess supported Mr. Santorum not so much because he agreed with all his policies – “I try to get out of it,” he told station broadcaster Lou Dobbs in February 2012 – but because he thought the Republican Party needed a new face.
“These old veteran warhorses have a hard time getting it,” he told Lou Dobbs Tonight. “Dole couldn’t do it, McCain couldn’t. On the Democratic side, Gore failed and Kerry failed. So Democrats bring these fresh faces, they bring Carter out of nothing, they bring Clinton out of nothing, they bring Obama out of nothing. ”
Later that month, Mr. Friess made headlines when, on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell asked him if Santorum’s statements about “the dangers of contraception” would harm his campaign.
“In my day,” Friess said, “they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The girls got on their knees and it didn’t cost that much.”
The primary campaign of Mr. Santorum started strong, but was broken and Obama was elected for a second term, defeating Mitt Romney.
In the upcoming presidential campaign, Mr Friess also initially supported Mr Santorum. In mid-2015, with the Republican camp suffocated by candidates and the level of unpleasantness rising, he urged candidates not to “leave the civility reserve”.
In May 2016, with Mr. Santorum out of the race and Mr. Trump secured the Republican nomination, Mr. Friess gave his support to the Trump cause, while acknowledging that Trump had moved forward showing the same incivility he had denounced: which he hoped would change to a more presidential tenor.
“Donald’s strategy seems to work,” Friess told CNN that month, “but I’m convinced it will change.”
Friess supported Mr. Trump throughout his administration, and when he ran for president, the Trump family tried to return the favor: the president’s son, Donald Jr., supported him in an opinion piece on The Star Tribune by Casper, Wyo. President Trump himself was calmer, although he offered a post on Twitter at the end of the campaign in support of Mr. Friess. Some cited Mr. Gordon’s victory as proof of Mr. Trump’s vulnerability, while others viewed it more as a local issue.
Three weeks ago, when Darin Smith, a lawyer and businessman who has claimed that Mr. Trump “probably” won the 2020 election, announced that he would challenge Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican who has been critical of Trump. in the 2022 primaries, he said Mr. Friess would be its campaign president.
Mr. Friess’s 58-year-old wife, Lynnette Estes Friess, survives him, as do his four children, Traci, Stephen, Carrie, and Michael; a brother, Herman; and 15 grandchildren.