Remembering IFE Cofounder James Isaac Valentine, Jr.

As friends learn of Jim’s passing, they express their condolences and share their memories of Jim, who will be missed. 

Reflections & Testimonials

Friends of IFE

I was so very sorry to hear the news of Jim’s illness and passing. Such a bitter blow for you and the girls and Travis. I am sure it was a great comfort to him in his final days to be able to be with you all, surrounded by love and kindness. All of my family, who came to know and love Jim over the years, also send their condolences. I should very much like to contribute a testimonial to the IFE website, if you would allow. This is what I would like to say, which, I hope, shows the very great degree of respect, admiration and affection I felt for Jim: "Jim and I first met in the early 90s in connection with what became Equant, one of the most successful telecoms venture deals ever done. We then went on to start our own telecoms company, which, through a combination of bad timing (launched and funded in 2000, on the very day the NASDAQ started its long decline culminating in the “Dotcom crash” of 2001), bad luck and the wrong investors, was one of the least successful venture start-ups in history! But, through all of the good times and the bad, as we spent nearly 10 years in protracted litigation with some much more powerful and better funded people than us, Jim’s support and good humour never wavered. He was always a staunch friend and ally, as well as a fount of good counsel, with the occasional very bad idea thrown in (a failing we both shared). He was also staggeringly good company, with an appetite for life that one sometimes struggled to keep pace with. I have been thinking back on some of our great times together, whether over far too may martinis and cigars in one watering hole or another (one such occasion in the Four Seasons in NYC resulted in the loss of our newly minted corporate seal), or hunting north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, or shooting pheasant and partridge in England, or getting involved in further ventures together. It is a matter of great regret to me that a planned meeting in Chicago last summer was prevented by COVID. Finally, Jim was, as well as being a great family man, firm friend and a great business partner, the most forceful personality and presence I have ever encountered, whilst also being genuinely modest and selfless - a rare combination. I shall miss you very much, Jim!

Michael Kean

We will never forget Jim. Truly, he was the definition of a “larger than life“ person. He loved people, had an amazing ability to cut through the bullshit and tell it like it is. Above all, he did it in a beautiful gentle way with a smile. Whenever I came to your IFE events, Jim and I for some reason always seem to be attracted to each other in the receptions and I think it was because we both shared that “no nonsense” view of life. I think we both felt that life is so short, we are so fortunate to be on this journey, and we don’t have time for anything other than directness, but in a nice way. I remember back in 2012 we had dinner in our dining room around the round table with several guests, and we all wrote down our impressions of who will win the 2012 elections. I still have that envelope which I have never opened but should. Both Jim and I were passionate about Mitt Romney, because he was the Republican candidate, at one point Jim looked at me and said “Hey, I didn’t think you actually had a Republican bone in your body” and we all laughed. He could say it and smile and it was just so charming. That exchange connected us even more. I could go on for hours given how long I’ve known your family, but it’s really a great loss for all of us. I remember one more thing; Jim and I used to joke because I always told him I wanted three girls and ended up with three boys, and he told me how lucky he felt being surrounded by smart females in the family. He meant it. Kelsey and Christina will always carry his legacy with them forever. We are sad for your loss but so happy to have known Jim even though his life was cut too short.

Elan and Eva Blutinger

IFE Board of Stewards

Jim was a visionary when it came to fusion energy, but he also well understood the wireless spectrum market. I was lucky enough to see him in action when we worked together on NextWave Telecom, years ago. A business dynamo – savvy, focused, bringing together the best people and the best ideas. I remember our initial meeting. The first thing he said was that we needed to talk with Kathy, whom I had not yet met. As he was dialing her number on the speakerphone, he told me everyone calls her Coach, which was something new for a gal whose only sport was neighborhood softball as a kid. She is not only a renowned tennis coach to everyone from U.S. presidents to Supreme Court justices, my husband Richard says she is a life coach, always looking to boost others’ strengths and focus them on success. Jim was justly proud of her, and they had an incredible partnership. Jim encouraged me to get involved with IFE, which he and Kathy had founded. Once again, this was a reflection of his belief in Kathy. The rest is history. Kathy and their beautiful children — confident, principled, kind, and accomplished — meant the world to him. This was easy to see when he was with them. Jim was proud of his military service and committed to veterans causes. He loved our country and was optimistic about its future. He was a Republican, and as a Jack Kemp Republican I always relished hearing what he thought. And while at times he was passionate about his ideas, he graciously welcomed hearing perspectives from the other side of the aisle, as many in this town can attest to. Humor was his magic when it came to deflecting political pomposity and any disagreements that might have arisen during the conversation. Jim was a force in a room, yet he engaged with each person as if they were the most important person to him at that moment. He could steer a conversation with people with mighty titles towards the bottom-line... which is why he often had a circle of people around him at gatherings listening to his insights. Whether it was about the issues of our day — or advice he was generously offering to someone, particularly a young person, about a career path — he was insightful, colorful, and fun. He balanced optimism with practical and helpful criticism. He treated people seriously. Richard always looked forward to seeing Jim at IFE events and for occasional lunches around town. Their conversations ranged from the issues of the day to catching up on family, always enveloped in Jim’s thoughtful incisiveness, wry humor, and ability to step back and observe the grand parade of life with an infectious smile and a twinkle in his eye. Jim has had a special place in our hearts for a quarter of a century. We will miss him dearly.

Marci Robinson, Chair, IFE Board of Stewards

Jim lit up every room he ever entered. He had a huge personality and he had the ability to make people feel welcome and included. I saw him do that all the time with big shots from governments around the world, with leaders from business, but also with regular folks. He really loved engaging with everybody. He loved banter. Jim was a highly successful businessman and an investor. He built a loving family. He was somebody that people always wanted around. Jim was a wonderful friend. He was warm and engaging, and always ready with a quip. And he loved to rib me about my baseball playing career. He would always tell anybody that he introduced me to that I'd been a professional baseball player, and then he would immediately follow it up with, but he couldn't hit a curve ball. I corrected him many times and said the issues I had had nothing to do with curve balls, but he just liked the way that sounded. Jim’s life was so full. From college football at Florida to Vietnam, to Harvard law, investment banking in San Francisco, in the tech sector, investing in world changing technologies and even advising leaders of American government. You pick one or two of those things; that's a full life for most people. He did all of that. And his family stands above all of that. That's what he was proudest of—his son and his daughters lit up Jim's life in a way that nothing else did. So when I look at the totality of, of Jim's life, his experience, the people that he touched, the impact that he had, professionally, in the family that he built, it's just incredible.

John Paul Farmer, IFE Board of Stewards

IFE Leadership, Fellows and Interns

I got many glimpses of Jim over the years. While I didn’t get to see firsthand the brilliant businessman or Harvard-educated lawyer, I did get to see the golfer, the creative thinker, the devoted friend, and the husband and father. Here follow reflections, not in any particular order, of some of my favorite Jim-isms. Jim loved golf. He loved the game itself, he loved the competitiveness of it, but he especially loved a good excuse to smoke a cigar and spend time with friends. And he especially liked messing with you. It was never mean-spirited; it was a friendly contest of wills. “Now what ya really don’t wanna do here,” he’d say, pointing directly at an ocean-sized lake down the entire left hand side of the hole, “is go left.” You’d roll your eyes at this brazen attempt to get inside your head, only to be infuriated when it worked. Jim exercised his muscles and his will in equal measure on the links. One of the things I appreciate most about Jim was his unwavering commitment to using swear words in the most creative ways. “F*** a duck,” was a favorite expression of his, and it’s become a favorite of mine. People swear in different ways. Some do it angrily. Others fumble the words because they swear so rarely. Jim did neither of those. He always swore expertly, and with a twinkle in his eye, like he was letting you in on a little secret. Which, in a way, he was. It was his way of telling you that you were getting his unfiltered, unvarnished thoughts—and that’s a gift that few give. My favorite memory of Jim is on Christmas mornings. He’d make biscuits and gravy for the kids, and occasionally I was there too. I remember the recipe. Sausage goes in the pan first, fry it up till the fat comes out. Then add flour. Butter. Whole milk. Eventually it thickens and you get an absolutely delicious gravy. One Christmas, he taught us how to make it. I think we all knew he must have learned this recipe early in his childhood in Tennessee. There wasn’t anything important about that moment—it wasn’t closing a big business deal or winning a golf tournament—but it felt special. It felt like we were getting to know a part of him that he rarely let anyone see. I'm really going to miss him.

George Zaidan

Family & Friends

Jim Valentine was, and still is, larger than life. For thirty-five years I've been the Country Mouse, graciously welcomed from time to time to join Jim's Town Mouse fun. Early on, he took me on a tour of his Montgomery Security digs: two full floors high in the Transamerica Pyramid dominating the San Francisco skyline. This mouse was dazzled. Montgomery was the go-go investment bank aggressively taking on all the big guys. At the dawn of personal computers, not long out of Harvard Law, Jim was the high-tech finance guy. Emphasis on "the." To get an interview at Montgomery you had to've been a competitive college athlete. Thom Weisel talked only to the most aggressive candidates he could find. Track-and-field Jim was, to put it mildly, a perfect fit. He was a gladiator in an arena of his own choosing, his chariot given full rein. Answering only to himself, he glued mergers and acquisitions together into name-brand industry leaders. Often, though, in those early days he and I just got together to have a good time. We even had a few Country Mouse adventures. There was a fairly epic road trip to the ghost uptown of Butte, Montana, where I'd been invited to improvise my way through an indie film. Some funny stories there. Stories about Jim often involved the outward persona Jim cultivated. It could be obstreperous, even outrageous, dosing out executive cynicism with jock fratboy humor. His friends got it, but it was always interesting to see him come into a room full of strangers. He was so good in that role because he embodied a couple of traits you rarely find together. He had one of the most incisive minds I've ever met. He mastered with ease the smallest financial details and largest technical perspectives of every divergent company he could find or who found him. His eye was always on the ball and he always cut right to the chase. He'd just as soon deliver the bad news first, in no uncertain words but with wry humor, especially if it was about himself. Jim enjoyed caricaturing himself in public. He didn't much care what anybody else thought at first encounter. He had no illusions and liked to be--can I coin a phrase?--misunderestimated. I believe he played his role with such confidence because, more than most, he knew himself inside and out. He had no illusions. But always in the background were two underlying traits few got to see. A self-made man, Jim rarely talked about family. To put it mildly, Jim didn't wear his heart on his sleeve. I never heard the word love come out of his mouth. But I was privileged over the years to see that private side of him more than most. I never doubted how much family love underpinned and sustained everything he did. In our last phone conversation, Jim was in a reflective mood and praised each member of his immediate family with pride, one by one and then together, not only for who they were and had become but for how much they meant in his life. It was moving to hear him say out loud and so expressively what really had always meant the most to him. That family love is all around him here. And in their midst Jim's still Jim.

Marshall Gaddis

Jim you have always been the best big brother to me in many ways. Early in life when we lived at Martin and Curran houses, I distinctly remember your personal drive to excel at your schoolwork. You would regularly sit at your desk (I think your desk was our old family dining table with metal legs) and study for the next day's school work (none of us had that discipline). Many years later in college, I was able to channel the work ethic that you lived every day. Your financial support for our family helped us all to live better lives. Whether it was our Mom needing help with living expenses, Dave needing money for starting his car business, helping Billy get out of his legal jam (stupid counterfeiting attempt), investing with Mick in Houston (although we learned Mick was ethically challenged) and helping me buy a car and financial help while in college, and your willingness to always help fund our family group gatherings (even though in many cases you could not be with us). You were always there to help us, since we did not have any parental help when it came to money (as you know, Dad needed as much help financially as we all did). I personally benefited the most from your willingness to help family, not only while I was in school but when I moved to Washington in the Fall of 1988. During that Fall it was a real joy when you would let me tag-along to watch you do 4 or 5 meetings a day on various business ventures where, no matter the topic, your executive presence, pure intellect, and booming voice always made you the center of the meeting. To this day I tell my Grant and Griff, in business as with much of life, that people will listen to and follow your leadership if you present a topic confidently and have a strong voice (even with limited knowledge); I learned that lesson from you in 1988. For my life, I am very grateful for the huge difference your help made at the critical point in my real estate career when I needed to get out of the toxic business relationship with David Forward. Your monthly support at that time, as well as investing in some of my deals put me on a path to be very successful in real estate development and investing. Your help, at that critical time, has led to my financial independence and early retirement. Your love for our family has always been shown to us in your willingness to help with financial support and be a part of our biannual Brothers' only reunions. Your work ethic that resulted in a Harvard law degree and a successful investment banking career has been more of an inspiration to me personally than you could ever imagine. You and Kathy have really led a great life with so many exciting life experiences, that the rest of us can only vicariously enjoy. Kelsey and Christina and Travis are great kids and a real testament to your and Kathy's positive involvement in their lives. Of course, we have all joked about what the best way to die would be (so far you are in the last place - just kidding), but it's painfully obvious that none of us will have any good choices when the time comes. I hate that you are in such pain and hope you can find relief from the pain. Lots of love from your little brother, Stevie

Steve Valentine

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