Lee Kopp, the North Side son of a Minneapolis parking lot attendant who went on to a 50-year career in the securities industry, was known as a decisive and calm investor who made money for clients and himself.
Kopp also acknowledged it when his picks and patient style didn’t work out.
Kopp, who eschewed a flashy lifestyle and the trappings of wealth, drove a 2007 Cadillac and lived in the same Edina house near his Southdale-area office for 50 years. He died earlier this month at the age of 86, two years after he shuttered Kopp Investment Advisors to focus on philanthropy and family investments.
Kopp wanted his legacy to be the $60 million-and-growing sum he and his family donated to charitable causes, mostly to scholarships for Minneapolis-area kids from low-income families, from preschool to college.
Kopp, a graduate of Minneapolis Henry High, also graduated from the University of Minnesota and served as a Navy officer.
“Lee was a remarkable man who lived a remarkable life,” his widow, Barbara, and daughter Debbie said in a prepared statement. “A man of tremendous integrity, kindness, generosity and great wit. He once said, there are three important things in life: The first is to be kind, the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind.”
Lee and Barbara Kopp established the Kopp Family Foundation in 1987.
“His generosity has touched the lives of thousands,” the statement said. “There is no better way to pay tribute to his legacy than to continue the charitable works of the Kopp Family Foundation for many years to come.”
Kopp’s giving focused on local community colleges and state universities. It spanned students at 132 schools, 52 of them in Minneapolis. The foundation also supported assistance to the needy.
Kopp and his wife of 61 years raised four children in Edina.
Kopp joined the former Dain Bosworth in 1960, now part of RBC Wealth Management. He served as a financial adviser and manager of the big Southdale branch office until he established Kopp Investment Advisors in 1990.
He won accolades in the 1990s for good performance focused on technology investments.
In 2006, Kopp sold the firm’s two publicly traded mutual funds to much-larger American Century. He and a small staff focused on private money management for individuals until his retirement in 2019 at 84.
Kopp trained many of the top brokers at Dain.
“He’s confident, but there’s not an arrogant bone in his body,” George Hallin, a Dain Bosworth broker said in 1995. “At poker, he’s aggressive when he’s got the cards. And you don’t bluff him out of the pot.”
Kopp didn’t like losing money. He was courteous and direct. He was more long-term investor than trader. He was not shy about inviting clients to find another broker rather than fight over strategy. And he criticized management teams he thought were overpaid for underperformance.
Kopp credited associates and good fortune for much of the success that he invested in the less fortunate.