Steven Liu, a Beijing-based partner and China practice co-head at Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, died last week in Beijing after suffering a heart attack. He was 46.
“His passing was a huge shock and loss to his family, friends and colleagues,” said Robert Gunderson Jr., founding partner and chairman of Gunderson Dettmer. “He will be greatly missed.”
Liu joined Gunderson Dettmer in 2012 as the Silicon Valley firm was opening its first office outside the United States—in Beijing. He moved there from DLA Piper, where he had been a partner since 2007 and head of the corporate practice group in Beijing since 2010.
Gunderson recalled talking to Liu about the firm’s plan to open an office in Beijing. Liu, he said, immediately stood out among potential candidates as the person for the job. The meeting went well. It took Gunderson very little time to conclude that Liu was, indeed, the person the firm was looking for.
“I reached out directly to Steve, who I had first met a couple of years before we opened the office,” Gunderson said. ”It took some time for Steve to decide to join us—but, as I told him, we were more than happy to wait for him.”
Liu specialized in venture capital and private equity work; he advised investors, entrepreneurs and technology companies in China. His clients included the U.S. hedge fund Tiger Global Management, Coatue, China-focused fund H Capital and Chinese investment firm Hillhouse Capital Group, as well as numerous listed companies based in China. He was involved in more than 100 M&A transactions during his career, ranging from multibillion-dollar public-public mergers and hostile takeovers to more traditional acquisitions of stock or assets.
“His decades-long commitment to the entrepreneurial and venture communities made him a key contributor to technology innovation in China,” Gunderson Dettmer wrote on its website in memory of Steven Liu.
Gunderson described Liu as a great leader in the Beijing office. “[He] recruited terrific folks for the office, was a great mentor and shared and exemplified our core values,” he said. “He was humble and gracious and always ready to jump in and help others out—no matter what.”
Liu grew up in the United States and was fluent in both English and Chinese. He studied economics and English at the University of California, Berkeley before earning a J.D. at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1997. After graduating, he started his career with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and practiced with the Palo Alto-based firm for nine years before moving to DLA Piper and relocating to Beijing.
Gunderson said he received a note of condolence from someone at another law firm in which the writer remembered Liu as a “super guy and terrific lawyer.”
“I think that is the most succinct summation I can think of,” Gunderson said.
In the “In Memoriam” of Liu posted on the firm’s website, the Gunderson Dettmer wrote: “We and all who knew him will miss his warmth, generosity, humility and thoughtful insight.”
Liu is survived by his wife, two children and his parents. Gunderson said the firm is “taking steps to support them financially and otherwise during this difficult time.”