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Tisch

TISCH

TISCH , U.S. brothers, entrepreneurs and philanthropists. laurence alan tisch (1923–2003), the older of two brothers, was born in Brooklyn, n.y. His father, Abraham (Al), was an All-American basketball player at the City College of New York and owned a garment factory and two summer camps that his wife, Sadye, helped him run. Laurence graduated cum laude from New York University at 18 and a year later earned a master's degree in industrial management from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. After World War ii service in the Office of Strategic Services, he enrolled at Harvard Law School but dropped out after a year. In 1946, the Tisch parents entrusted Larry, as he was known, with $125,000 to invest. He used the money to buy a lackluster resort called Laurel-in-the-Pines in Lakewood, n.j. that he found listed in a Business Opportunities advertisement in the New York Times. His brother, preston robert (1926–2005), known as Bob, joined him as a full partner in 1948. The Tisches refurnished the hotel, added amenities like a swimming pool, and dreamed up promotional stunts like importing three reindeer from Finland to pull sleighs in the snow. Over the next dozen years the brothers acquired a dozen hotels in New York, New Jersey, and Florida and in 1956 built the Americana at Bal Harbour, Fla., spending $17 million of their own money. It was in the black the first year, thanks to convention business. In 1961 the brothers gained control of Loews, one of the larger movie-house chains in the country, which was forced to separate its theaters from its filmmaking unit. Larry was attracted to Loews' underlying real-estate assets. In 1961 the brothers knocked down the old Loews Lexington Theater in New York City and used the site to build the 800-room Summit Hotel, the first hotel built in Manhattan in 30 years. In Times Square, they built the Americana, which at 50 stories was the world's tallest hotel upon completion in 1962. In 1968 the Tisches bought Lorillard, then the fifth-largest cigarette company in the United States. Larry shed its non-tobacco interests to increase profit margins. In 1974 Larry acquired a controlling stake in the cna Financial Corporation, a nearly bankrupt Chicago-based insurance company. Within a few years he transformed it into a company with $16.5 billion in assets and an A-plus credit rating. By 1980 Loews vaulted to more than $3 billion in annual revenue from $100 million a decade earlier, from its 14 hotels, 67 movie theaters, insurance operations, shipping, Bulova watches, and popular cigarette brands like Kent, Newport, and True. Larry did have some setbacks, however. In 1971 Loews invested $40 million in the Franklin National Bank, which was sold to an Italian financier who was later convicted of looting its assets. Loews was sued by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for breach of fiduciary duty and misuse of information. The company paid $1.2 million in an out-of-court settlement. In 1986 Larry was thrust into a new arena when he was invited to discourage a hostile takeover of the Columbia Broadcasting System network. Using Loews as his investment vehicle, Larry acquired almost 25 percent of cbs for $750 million. After a series of disputes with officers of cbs, Larry became acting chairman. Within months he presided over the ouster of 230 of the 1,200 news employees and cut the news division's budget by $30 million. He sold cbs's book publishing units in 1986 to Harcourt Brace Jovanovich for $500 million and its magazines to Diamandis Communications for $650 million the next year. And he also sold cbs Records, the second-largest record company in the world at the time, to the Sony Corporation of Japan for $2 billion. While cbs stock did well, the network faltered, falling to third place among the three major networks. After ten years, cbs was sold to the Westinghouse Electric Corporation for $5.4 billion. In the years after he left cbs Larry took a bearish position in the stock market and posted $2 billion in trading losses for Loews. Larry turned to civic affairs and philanthropy. He was a trustee of the Whitney Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the New York Public Library. He was also president of the United Jewish Appeal of New York and was a director of the Legal Aid Society. He became a prolific fundraiser for nyu, helping to provide it with endowment and new buildings. He spent his leisure time with his family, in frequent discussions of Jewish traditions with talmudic scholars. He often invited a rabbi to his Fifth Avenue office to discuss Bible passages and talmudic interpretations.

Bob Tisch worked with his brother to build the multibillion-dollar business empire, but he himself was postmaster general of the United States, half-owner of the New York Giants football team, and leader of many of New York City's top business groups. He was chairman of the host committees for the 1976 and 1980 Democratic National Conventions and led the way in building a new convention center on Manhattan's West Side. His last campaign, Take the Field, to revitalize the ragged athletic fields of the city's public high schools, raised $140 million. Bob Tisch's enthusiasm for convening the city's movers and shakers began during New York City's fiscal crisis in the 1970s with breakfasts at his Park Avenue hotel, the Regency. Major players in that municipal drama such as Lewis *Rudin and Felix G. *Rohatyn were the first regulars and Tisch was credited with coining the term "power breakfast." Among the city organizations Bob Tisch headed were the New York City Convention and Visitors Bureau, the New York City Partnership, and the New York City Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Tisches were known for their generosity. The medical center and arts school at New York University bear the family name. So does a gallery at the Metropolitan Museum and the children's zoo in Central Park as well as namesake institutions at the University of Michigan, Tufts University, and elsewhere. Bob Tisch attended Bucknell University briefly, joined the army and earned a bachelor's degree from Michigan after his discharge in 1944. When Tisch was postmaster general, from 1986 to 1988, he used his marketing skill to sell stamps by phone and stressed the sale of commemorative stamps, which are financially advantageous for the Postal Service because collectors seldom use them as postage. Bob also founded Meals-on-Wheels in New York, served as its president for 20 years, and many times personally delivered meals to the elderly. His habit of working Sundays prevented him from seeing a professional football game until 1961, but he made up for it. After buying into the Giants in 1991, he loved to attend practices and confer with coaches. He improved the team's business by sharpening marketing strategies and raising ticket prices.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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