Obituary | Charles “Jiggs” Davis

May 12, 1934 – November 24, 2021

Charles “Jiggs” Davis Jr., a business leader and lifelong entrepreneur who served as the 32nd global chairman emeritus of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and was the founder of its YPO Forum, passed away on December 24, 2021 in Oakland, Calif. He was 87.

A passionate leader and advisor to many in YPO’s global community, Silicon Valley business circles and beyond, Davis inspired his colleagues and friends with his lifelong commitment to learn and contribute, both as an entrepreneur and an individual.

Davis was born in Oakland to Helen and Charles Davis, Sr. and raised in San Leandro where he was an Eagle Scout and school president at San Leandro High School. He earned the nickname “Jiggs” from an aunt who thought he resembled the boy from “Bringing Up Father” cartoon strip and the moniker stuck.

Davis graduated from Stanford University in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science in geology and continued his field research as a postgraduate in 1957. After serving in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer, he moved to New York to pursue a career as a salesman for a clothing company. Davis was noticed for his creative and persistent efforts to build relationships with customers. He often recounted his experience climbing up fire escapes to avoid long lines of salesmen who all sought time with the same buyers.

The tactics he picked up and the knowledge he gleaned from his work in New York propelled him back to California with the energy and optimism to build his career as a business leader. For over six decades, Davis could be described as nothing less than a “passionate, serial entrepreneur” who was involved in the foundation and development of more than thirty companies. Davis worked in leadership roles in consumer goods, travel, information technology, finance, venture capital, biotechnology, manufacturing, oil and gas exploration, court reporting, professional sports, and other industries.

From 1967 to 1972, before the NBA was well established, he led a group of investors in the purchase and management of the San Diego Rockets and the San Diego Gulls, a professional hockey team. He also served on alumni boards for Stanford University and served as a general partner, board member, and advisor in a series of venture capital funds and high growth companies.

Davis was widely known for his involvement in the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and World Presidents’ Organization (WPO), of which he participated in for more than 50 years. Here, he was responsible for creating the “YPO Forum” in 1975 when he served as Education Chairman for the Northern California chapter. He eventually led the adoption of this valued program in several countries outside of North America, including Brazil, Australia, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Later, he was elected to YPO’s International Board as International President from 1982 to 1983. He then served as the 32nd YPO Global Chairman Emeritus from 1988-1990.

Most recently, Davis, through his Montclair Group company, was involved in the development of the following businesses — Syntax, OVO Venture Capital Funds, and the Dasco Manufacturing Corporation. He was also a member of the Bohemian Club for 30 years, where he was “Captain” to the Pelican Camp for many years. He lived in Piedmont, Calif., for nearly 60 years and was a longtime member of the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. He was also an avid Golden State Warriors fan, having been a season-ticket holder for 45 years.

Even though he lent advice and support to YPO leaders and other business partners, Davis himself was lifetime learner. When he started a series of biotechnology companies in the late 1990s, Davis worked with a tutor and studied the core science and related technology. Late in his life, at roughly 80 years old, he made a decision to enter the financial products industry. He passed the Series 7 and the Series 66 license and became a “registered financial representative” for Syntax Advisors. He was an early adopter of electric vehicles as a member of the elite BMW “Electronauts”, enjoyed his Apple iWatch, iPhone, and other tools, and often became enthusiastic and animated as he learned about new products and technological developments through his association with venture capital and entrepreneurial start-ups. He wanted to help improve our daily lives and work experiences.

Davis brought this full enthusiasm, optimism, focus, and persistence to each and every day. He held an inspirational passion for his work. He was comfortable pursuing a compelling vision even when the path was not clear, and his energy was contagious. He was working full time, running full throttle, right up to the moment he passed away.

He left an indelible mark in every business and relationship he was a part of and, most of all, left a family that loved him and remains grateful for all he brought to life. Davis is survived by his wife of more than fifty years Jackie, his children Lora Lee Zaky, Jeff Davis, Suzi Fenn, and Mike Davis, and his grandchildren Camille and Emmit Fenn, and Elle, Charlotte, and Jake Davis. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Judith Lee Davis (née Babb) of Wilmington, Ohio.

This obituary has been republished with permission of the family.

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