Dianne Feinstein’s husband Richard Blum dies after long battle with cancer

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Richard C. Blum, a longtime Bay Area businessman and husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, died at home Sunday night after a long battle with cancer. He was 86 years old.

Blum served as president and chairman of Blum Capital Partners, an equity investment company he founded in 1975, and was a longtime member for the University of California Board of Regents, the body that oversees the system.

“My heart is broken. My husband was my partner and best friend for more than 40 years,” Feinstein, 88, said in a statement. “He was by my side for the good times and for the challenges. I’m going to miss him terribly”

Blum was born in San Francisco and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master of business administration from UC Berkeley. Blum married Feinstein in 1980, when she was mayor of San Francisco. Feinstein has represented California in the U.S Senate since 1992. Blum’s death comes as Feinstein, the Senate’s oldest member, struggles with low approval ratings and calls for her resignation from some progressive members of the Democratic Party.

In a statement, Gov. Gavin Newsom praised Blum as a model Californian.

“Richard Blum lived an extraordinary life, and he left this world better than he found it – lifting up our communities and helping connect people from across the globe,” Newsom said.

At the age of 23, Blum joined Sutro and Co., an investment brokerage firm, and became partner before turning 30. Blum helped acquire Barnum and Bailey Circus and Ringling Bros. for $8 million before selling the circus to Mattel for $40 million.

He had great interest in Tibet, founding the American Himalayan Foundation, a San Francisco-based non-profit to help Nepalis, Tibetans and Sherpas in the area by funding hospitals, building schools and taking care of the elderly and children. A friend of the Dalai Lama, Blum served as an honorary consul of Nepal. He also befriended Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first climbers to have reached Mount Everest, and attempted his own trek in 1981.

Blum created the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California, Berkeley in order to address global poverty by focusing on education, initiatives and research. Blum served as a UC regent for nearly two decades and was chairman emeritus of the board.

His tenure as a regent was not without controversy, however. In 2020, a state audit found that dozens of students were admitted to selective UC campuses over more qualified applicants because of exaggerated athletic abilities, wealth and connections. Blum sent a letter of support to the chancellor after a student was placed on a waitlist for UC Berkeley, which ultimately accepted the student.

In an interview with this news organization, Blum dismissed the episode as “much ado about nothing.”

He and Feinstein have similarly waved away concerns about their complicated finances. Several years ago, the senator initially failed to disclose that Blum owned more than $100,000 in Facebook shares until after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified to the Senate. Her office said the pair did not discuss her husband’s financial transactions and the mistake was reported when discovered.

Feinstein praised her husband’s “enormous generosity” in her statement Monday.

“We have a hole in our hearts that will never be filled. Dick, we love you, we’ll miss you and we’ll continue to celebrate everything you accomplished during an amazing life,” she said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke about Blum’s contributions to San Francisco, the city the Democrat represents.

“A lifelong San Franciscan, Richard was a powerful force for good in our city,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Building a successful career in business, he constantly gave back to our city: whether as a patron of our arts, a donor to our food banks or a benefactor to our efforts to end homelessness.”

Sen. Alex Padilla said that Blum was a “compassionate humanitarian who dedicated his life to improving the world for others.”

“Above all, Dick was devoted to his family,” Padilla continued. “Over his four decades of marriage to Senator Feinstein, he took tremendous joy in supporting her pioneering leadership as a public servant. Angela and I send our deepest condolences and prayers to Dianne and her family in this difficult time.”

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