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Kevin Landry, Boston private equity luminary, dies at 69

Kevin Landry. File photo. (John Tlumacki/ Globe Staff.)

Kevin Landry, a veteran of Boston private equity and one of its biggest personalities, died Thursday after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 69.

Landry was the longtime chief executive of TA Associates in Boston, working on such investments as Biogen Idec, now a pharmaceutical giant, and Continental Cablevision. He was widely respected in private equity circles for his work ethic, honesty and deep knowledge of the business. But he was beloved by legions of friends and clients for his blunt manner, his smash shot in tennis, and a seemingly boundless energy he brought to everything from flying jets to supporting women’s hockey at Harvard.

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“For many of us, Kevin Landry was TA Associates. He joined the firm directly from Wharton, long before any of us knew of TA, and before a great many of you were born,’’ the firm’s chairman, Richard Tadler, said in a note to the staff Thursday. “He hated to lose and didn’t do anything halfway. Whether on the golf course or the tennis court, fishing or sailing, on the motorcycle or in the air, Kevin reveled in a challenge, physical or intellectual.”

A rare breed in the buttoned-down investment world, Landry could always be counted on for straight assessments of the economy, bankers, and politics. He never hesitated to speak his mind, even when his views were unpopular: He criticized the favorable tax treatment partners in his industry enjoy, and he called out lenders for being careless in the run-up to the financial crisis.

Recruited by venture capital pioneer Peter Brooke, Landry first took a job with TA in 1967. At the time, he didn’t know what venture capital was, Landry told the Globe last year.

An active Harvard University alumnus, Landry was a big supporter of the school, along with his wife Barrie, and they sent their two daughters there. They funded the school’s Jeremy Knowles Undergraduate Teaching Laboratory, an interdisciplinary teaching space supporting learning across the sciences and engineering, and endowed the women’s ice hockey coach position.

In 2010, Landry was awarded the Harvard Medal, the highest honor the university gives to alumni for extraordinary service.

“Kevin Landry was a great Harvard citizen,” Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust said in a statement. “He enthusiastically supported academics and athletics, thoughtfully engaged in philanthropy, and eagerly shared his perspectives with deans and other leaders across the University, always with equal measures of candor and care.”

Landry took on cancer with the same upbeat fury he brought to the rest of his life. He was diagnosed in 2010 and given less than a year to live. But with aggressive treatment, he stayed active and continued to work. He retired last year after 45 years with TA, when he felt he couldn’t maintain his usual pace.

Still, he stayed sharp and continued to see friends and spend time with family. He also maintained a steady correspondence, sending e-mails with news, observations, and his classically acerbic critiques of liberal politicians.

Even as he dealt with cancer treatment, Landry told the Globe last year, “Look at the totality of my life. I’ve been so lucky.”

Landry’s partners at TA recently made a $10 million gift to Harvard to endow the Landry Cancer Biology Consortium and the Landry Cancer Research fellowships. The gift will fund research on cancer biology and treatments, including lung cancer studies.

Beth Healy can be reached at bhealy@globe.com.
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