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Cullman

CULLMAN

CULLMAN (Kullman ), family of U.S. business executives.

joseph f. cullman 3rd (1912–2004) was the longtime head of the giant tobacco company Philip Morris who, in the face of serious concern about smoking, built the company into one of the largest corporations in America and the maker of the best-selling product in the world. He was born into the business in New York, where his great-grandfather, ferdinand kullman, a cigar maker from Germany, settled in 1848. His son, the first joseph cullman, became a dealer in Ohio leaf. His son, eventually called joe junior in the trade, led the General Cigar Company, which produced brands like White Owl, Van Dyck and Robert Burns; at one time he owned 1,800 acres of tobacco fields in Connecticut. Joe Junior had one daughter and four sons; the eldest came to be known as Joe Third.

After graduation from Yale, Joe Third spent a short time working as a clerk in a Schulte Cigar store in New York and then was sent to Havana to work at the H. Upmann cigar factory. During World War ii, he spent three years as a gunnery officer aboard a cruiser that fought its way up the Coral Sea to Guadalcanal. When he returned to civilian life, he took over the management of a small company, Benson & Hedges, that his father had purchased in 1941. That company served the carriage trade with monogrammed gold-tipped and hand-rolled cigarettes. It also produced a luxury cigarette called Parliament, with a recessed mouthpiece and a cotton filter. The cigarette producer Philip Morris had no filters and other companies, perhaps with an eye on health concerns, were introducing filter-tipped cigarettes. In 1954 Philip Morris turned over stock valued at $22.4 million to Joe Junior for his interest in Benson & Hedges. In addition to the two brands, Parliament and Benson & Hedges, Philip Morris acquired Joe Third as a vice president. The next year he was named executive vice president and at the end of 1957 he became president and chief executive. He held both titles until 1967, when he was named chairman and chief executive, staying in that capacity until 1978.

From 1964 to 1969, cigarette sales for Philip Morris increased by 63 percent. One major reason was a shift in advertising. When Joe Third took over Philip Morris, the company and its flagship cigarette were represented by a short man in a hotel bellhop's uniform shouting "Call for Philip Morris," as if he were paging someone. As the company worked on a filter cigarette to challenge the industry leader, Winston, Cullman presided over the quest for the right mixture of tobacco, the appropriate filter, a new flip-top box, and the right image that would attract smokers to Marlboro, a new cigarette to be marketed under an old brand name that had once been aimed at women. The Chicago-based advertising agency Leo Burnett created a campaign involving rugged Western cowboys, inviting smokers to "come where the flavor is … come to Marlboro Country." In his memoir, Cullman said: "What was needed was a full-flavored filter brand that had a virile image." By 1983 Marlboro had become the best-selling product in the world.

Cullman had set the stage for the company's diversification in 1969, when Philip Morris acquired Miller Brewing, and then General Foods, Kraft and Nabisco Holdings, whose brands included Maxwell House coffee, Oreo cookies and Oscar Meyer sausages. Under his direction, Philip Morris rose from last in sales among the six major American producers to first in 1983, surpassing Reynolds Tobacco, the industry leader for 25 years. Philip Morris earned so much cash that it was driven to use its huge profits to acquire food giants like Kraft General Foods, Miller Beer, and Jacques Suchard and became the largest consumer products company in the world. It sold the most popular cigarette in the world (Marlboro) and the second most popular beer in America. But as the company grew, the basic product, cigarettes, was coming under increasing attack as perilous to health. As the evidence accumulated, Cullman led the company and the industry's effort to counteract those claims. He testified before Congressional committees, he deflected and delayed calls to curb cigarette smoking and advertising by scientists, public health specialists, legislators, lung-damaged plaintiffs, and personal injury lawyers. He led the unsuccessful effort against those seeking to put warnings on cigarette advertising and messages on cigarette packs. And he wrote countless letters to editors, arguing that smoking was a matter of personal choice. Cullman smoked for many years but eventually tapered off and quit.

Cullman involved Philip Morris, an $80 billion company in 2004, renamed the Altria Group, in countless philanthropies, especially in sports and the arts. He was a leader in creating the women's professional tennis tour, the Virginia Slims circuit, sponsored by one of his brands. The company gave millions each year to groups like the Dance Theater of Harlem, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Guggenheim and Metropolitan art museums and the Whitney Museum of American Art. An active conservationist, he was a former trustee of the New York State Nature and Historical Preserve Trust of the American Museum of Natural History and served on the national board of the Smithsonian Institution. He was also a member of the board of the World Wildlife Fund and director of the American Folk Art Museum.

One of his favorite philanthropic projects was the Gomez Mill House in Newburgh, n.y. It is believed to be the oldest extant house in the United States built by a Jewish owner (1714). Cullman said he was a descendant of Louis Moses Gomez, who fled the Spanish Inquisition and built the house as a fortress where he traded with the Indians. A second floor was added during the period of the Revolutionary War. Gomez's descendants also include Supreme Court Justice Benjamin *Cardozo and Emma *Lazarus, the poet.

Cullman's second wife was joan paley cullman, whose grandfathers were Nathan *Straus Sr. and Dr. Bernard *Sachs, a discoverer of Tay-Sachs disease, the hereditary neurological disorder. She became a Tony Award-winning producer of Broadway plays and vice chair of Linclon Center.

Joe Third's brother lewis b. cullman (1919– ) and his wife, dorothy (1923– ), were philanthropists. In 1963, Lewis Cullman originated the idea of the leveraged buyout, acquiring the Orkin Exterminating Company, and continued to amass a fortune with this now-common business practice. He is the founder and former chairman of Cullman Ventures, which includes the jewel in his crown, the At-a-Glance Group, a manufacturer of 90 percent of the diaries and appointment books in the United States. He sold the company to Mead in 1999 so he could devote his energies to philanthropy in the arts, science and education. His philanthropies include many of the great institutions of New York City, including Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Museum of Modern Art and Central Park. Dorothy is a television producer with an interest in aiding writers and artists, reading and human rights. They pledged more than $80 million, mostly to civic and cultural institutions in New York City, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Botanical Garden.

Another brother, edgar m. cullman sr. (1918– ) was chairman of the Culbro Corporation, manufacturers of premium cigars like Garcia y Vega and Macanudo brands. In 1961, Edgar bought a controlling stake in the General Cigar Company, which had been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 1906. In 1976, General Cigar changed its name to Culbro, an echo of the family firm name. His son edgar jr. (1946– ) became president and designated chairman of Culbro.

howard s. cullman (1891–1972), brother of Joseph F. Cullman, Jr., became president of the family firm. In 1927 he was appointed to the Port of New York Authority by Governor Alfred E. Smith. He became vice chairman in 1934 and chairman a few years later, serving until 1955. In 1929, Howard, a Yale graduate, and his brother formed Tobacco and Allied Stocks to invest and trade in securities in the tobacco industry. It was the first investment trust in the field. In 1931 he was appointed by Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt as chairman of a state committee to investigate problems connected with workmen's compensation. He served as a director of major corporations, and was a commissioner-general of the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. He also held prominent positions in Jewish communal affairs, serving with ORT and the Jewish Social Service Association. With his wife, marguerite w. cullman (1905–1999), he invested in such Broadway shows as Life With Father, Oklahoma!, Carousel, Brigadoon, South Pacific, Annie Get Your Gun, Fiddler on the Roof, Teahouse of the August Moon, Death of a Salesman, and A Streetcar Named Desire.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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