In Memoriam: Todd Brooks

Update: A memorial service for Todd will be held at 10:00 am. on Wednesday, February 28th, at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in San Mateo. 

Venture capitalist Todd Brooks has died from an apparent suicide attempt. He was 46 years old, and leaves behind wife Marilee and three young children.

An online forum has been set up for friends and colleagues to communicate with – and to help — the Brooks family during this difficult time. The site also is expected to provide memorial service information, once it has been finalized.

Brooks began his career as a senior equity research analyst with Franklin Templeton Funds, where he covered the communications equipment sector. He then moved on to JAFCO America Ventures (since renamed Globespan Venture Partners), to serve as a managing principal and back such companies as Brocade Communications.

Brooks later joined Mayfield Fund in 1998, before leaving in 2003 due to “differences in investment philosophy and over the direction of the firm.”

Two years later, Brooks teamed up with fellow ex-Mayfielder Peter Levine to form a new VC shop tentatively named BLX Partners. They set out to raise a $200 million fund, and were well on their way until Levine unexpectedly pulled out to accept a CEO role with open-source startup Xensource.

At the time, Brooks said: “I remain passionate and focused on the fund formation process and continue my discussions with several potential investment professionals who have been under consideration as team members throughout the fund-raising process.”

As of last August, he was reported to have been doing some informal recruiting, and also to have discussed some sort of partnership arrangement with Worldview co-founder James Wei. We had not reported on his activities since.

According to the Marin County Coroner’s Office, Brooks was witnessed jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge at 10:23 p.m. on Thursday night, but he was not discovered until 2:58 p.m. yesterday afternoon.

News of Brooks’ passing has been met with both shock and sadness by former friends and colleagues. BitGravity CEO Perry Wu wrote in a mass email that Brooks was a “terrific friend to many of us,” but that most were unaware that he had “long suffered from depression.”

On a personal note: I met Todd only once in passing at an industry event, but had spoken to him about half a dozen time in the course of my work (part of which included covering his departure from Mayfield). He was a straight-talker who would take the time to help a layman like me understand the arcane intricacies of his latest optical networking investment. This really is a damn shame.

2/20 Update: Let me also emphatically state that this is not an act of cowardice, as some peHUB readers have cruelly suggested in their comments below. It was apparently the result of a mental illness, which is very real and has debilitating effects that most of us will thankfully never experience. The notion that someone with severe depression is capable of making “rational” decisions is to reject the science, and to publicly suggest otherwise at this time is to reject common decency.

Men have long been believed to suffer depression at lower rates than do women, but the reality is that they simply have had different symptoms. Sadly, this also is one cause for why men are four times more likely than are women to commit suicide. For more information on men and depression, please read the latest Newsweek cover story.

And please keep the Brooks family in your prayers…