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Kimmel, Sidney


KIMMEL, SIDNEY (1928– ), U.S. businessman, philanthropist. The son of a Philadelphia cab driver, Kimmel, a self-made man, became not only a leading apparel manufacturer but possibly the biggest individual donor to cancer research in the U.S. Although he had virtually no religious education as a child, he became committed to Jewish causes and was a bar mitzvah at the age of 73. A college dropout from Temple University between two tours of duty in the U.S. Army, Kimmel was born and raised in Philadelphia. His first job, setting up pins in a bowling alley, paid $2 a day. He started working in a knitting mill in the 1950s, then was hired by Villager, a Philadelphia sportswear company. Kimmel supervised the knitwear line, Villager's fastest-growing unit, becoming the company's president in 1968. The following year, he left to run the Jones apparel division of the conglomerate W.R. Grace. He was joined by designer Rena Rowan, who remained with him for the next 33 years. With a new label, Jones New York, the company produced modestly priced sportswear and suits with a designer look. Kimmel and a partner bought the Jones New York name from Grace in 1975, and Kimmel became chairman. In the 1980s, overexpansion and a problematic licensing deal almost bankrupted him. In 1989, Jones returned to profitability and in 1991 Kimmel took the company public. It became one of the world's top designers and marketers of branded apparel, footwear, and accessories, boasting such global brands as Jones New York, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Polo Jeans, Nine West, Evan-Picone, and Gloria Vanderbilt. In 2002, Kimmel stepped down as chief executive officer of Jones Apparel Group, but remained chairman. His other business interests included the Miami Heat basketball team, the Harry Cipriani international restaurant chain, and a movie company, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. In 1993, Kimmel, who married late in life and has no children, created the Sidney Kimmel Foundation and its subsidiary, the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research. He funded Kimmel Cancer Centers in San Diego, Calif., at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University, and at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering. His Kimmel Scholars program provides grants to promising young cancer researchers, and he was the top individual donor to the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. Kimmel, together with Rowan, gave $5 million in 1995 for a special exhibitions hall at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, d.c. In 2001, he pledged two $20 million endowments, one to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the other to the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Jewish Day School, to be given after his death. He said he would give both institutions $1 million each every year for the rest of his life. He also pledged $25 million to the National Museum for American Jewish History's new building being planned for Philadelphia. Among his many honors are the American Jewish Committee's National Human Relations Award, the Award for Excellence in Corporate Leadership from the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the American Cancer Society's Humanitarian Award, and Temple University's Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership.

[Mort Sheinman (2nd ed.)]

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