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NewsObituaries

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Westport Businessman Samuel J. Heyman Dies at 70

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UPDATE Samuel J. Heyman, a Westporter whose real estate holdings include Westport’s Compo Acres shopping center as well as shopping centers, hotels and office buildings in Connecticut and elsewhere in the Northeast, died Saturday in New York City. He was 70.WestportNow.com Image
Samuel J. Heyman: real estate investor and corporate raider. Bruce Ando photo

The New York Times reported his wife, Ronnie, said he died after complications from open heart surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Heyman, whose residences include a waterfront estate in Westport’s Greens Farms section as well as homes in New York City and Florida, was also an attorney, hedge fund owner, art collector, and corporate raider. He is perhaps best known for his 1983 takeover of the chemical giant GAF for about $5 billion. He was its chairman at his death.

Born March 1, 1939 in Danbury to Annette and Lazarus Heyman, he attended the private preparatory Wooster School in Danbury and graduated from Yale University in 1960 magna cum laude and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He played tennis for the Yale varsity and was ranked sixth in New England.

He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1963 and became an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice during the Kennedy Administration, rising to become chief assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Connecticut.

In 1968, after the death of his father, he took over his family’s Westport-based real estate firm, Heyman Properties. It is headquartered at 333 Post Road West, another of its Westport properties.

In 2008, the Westport tax assessor listed Heyman and his family as among the town’s largest taxpayers with holdings assessed at more than $29 million.

Heyman Properties holdings include more than 3.5 million square feet of office and retail space and almost 800 hotel rooms, according to the company’s Web site.

A noted philanthropist, Heyman founded the Washington-based Partnership for Public Service, the Heyman Fellowship Program, which provides financial assistance to Harvard Law School graduates who pursue work in the federal government, and The Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Center on Corporate Governance at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University.

He also created fellowship programs at Yale Law School and Seton Hall School of Law.

Heyman’s community activities included service on the boards of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law/Yeshiva University, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1988; Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy/Duke University, the Dean’s Advisory Board/Harvard Law School, as well as a trustee of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, an associate at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and a former board member of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

In Connecticut, he was a supporter of United Way, Stamford Downtown Special Services District, Westport’s Earthplace, The Nature Discovery Center, March of Dimes, Connecticut Food Bank, and Stamford-based St. Luke’s LifeWorks which provides learning opportunities, housing and support services to people overcoming homelessness in lower Fairfield County.WestportNow.com Image
Ronnie and Sam Heyman at the Yale University dedication in November 2008 of the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center. Yale University photo

During the 1980s, he was a corporate raider and his successful targets in addition to the GAF Corporation included International Specialty Products, a specialty chemical producer. He also made large sums of money in failed takeovers of Borg-Warner and Union Carbide.

He was also involved in takeover attempts on Dexter Corporation, the London Stock Exchange, and Hercules Corporation.

Survivors include his wife, Ronnie Feuerstein Heyman, whom he married in 1970 while she was a second year Yale Law School student, his mother, Annette Heyman of Palm Beach, Fla.; four children, Lazarus Heyman, Eleanor Propp, Jennifer Millstone and Elizabeth Winter; and nine grandchildren.

In a 1985 profile, Fortune Magazine said he was a highly competitive tennis player. ‘‘I don’t think you just go out and have fun,’’ it quoted him as saying. ‘‘It’s you versus the other guy, with no excuses.’‘

In 2005, Heyman spoke with the Harvard Law Bulletin about his program offering financial assistance to law graduates going to work for the federal government.WestportNow.com Image
Sam Heyman at a 1999 Cardozo Law School lecture. Norm Goldberg photo

“The government is unable to recruit more of the brightest and best today in part because many students are graduating with significant debt—which was simply not a factor in the ‘60s,” he said. 

“It is the objective of our fellowship program to substantially reduce the financial disincentive associated with government service.”

Asked what advice he would give law graduates today, Heyman said: “I am continually amazed at the fact that most young people today have little concept of what government service is all about, which is unmistakably the result of the government’s failure to communicate its message.

“While the financial opportunities are greater in the private sector, the psychic rewards and job satisfaction are incalculable where you can make a difference on issues affecting the direction of the country.

“Public service does not have to be a lifetime career—it can be a segment of your professional life that may enhance or even outshine the rest.”WestportNow.com Image
President Bush presented Heyman with a Presidential Citizens Medal in December 2008. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Chris Greenberg/White House photo

In December 2008 as he was about to leave office, President George W. Bush presented Heyman with a Presidential Citizens Medal as founder of the Partnership for Public Service.

Heyman established the organization in 2001 with $45 million to inspire more people to join the public sector and help transform the federal government’s performance.

In his award citation, Bush said Heyman “has acted on his steadfast devotion to our nation. By encouraging young leaders to answer the call of public service, he has helped promote a vibrant federal workforce.

“The United States honors Samuel Heyman for his dedication to improving the efficiency, transparency, and accountability of the federal government.”

Funeral services were set for 11 a.m. Monday at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, 125 East 85th St., New York, N.Y.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to the Partnership for Public Service, 1100 New York Ave., NW, Suite 1090 East, Washington, DC 20005 or Mt. Sinai Medical Center Cardio-Vascular Institute, attention Dr. Jonathan Halperin, 1190 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10029-6574.

Posted 11/08 at 12:19 PM


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