Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh during IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York. File Image: IOL
Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh during IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York. File Image: IOL

A $6 million denim inheritance at $5.6 billion in Levi's IPO

By Devon Pendleton and Sophie Alexander Time of article published Mar 22, 2019

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When Levi Strauss died childless in 1902, the bulk of his $6 million estate, worth $175 million in today’s dollars, passed to his four nephews and other relatives.

Just over a century later, some of his descendants are now worth about $5.6 billion, fueled by Levi Strauss & Co.’s first day of public trading in more than three decades on Thursday.

The Haas family, which traces their lineage to the iconic blue-jean maker’s founder, owns more than 61 percent of the San Francisco-based apparel maker’s shares. This excludes stock held by family charities, according to company filings. The shares are owned by at least two branches of the family’s second and third generations.

Mimi Haas, a prominent philanthropist, is the company’s biggest shareholder with a stake valued at about $1.3 billion. She’s a vice chair of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the widow of Levi Strauss’s grandnephew by marriage, Peter Haas Sr., who worked at the family business for 60 years until his death in 2005.

He and his brother, Walter, succeeded their father, Walter Sr., in running the business in the 1940s and helped oversee the first IPO in 1971. The family orchestrated a leveraged buyout 14 years later after revenue and profits sagged.

Other major shareholders of the business include Peter Haas’s son, Peter Jr., and daughter Margaret, cousin Robert Haas and family members Daniel and Jennifer Haas.

The family are longtime donors to the University of California, Berkeley, whose business school is named for them, and have been active philanthropists in the Bay Area since the days of Levi Strauss.

None of the family members are direct descendants of Strauss, though many have been closely involved in running the company over the decades.

Levi’s shares sold at $17 apiece, higher than the marketed range of $14 to $16 each, and rose 32 percent to close at $22.41 in New York. Haas family members sold more than $300 million worth of stock in the offering.


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