Guest Author - Vannie Ryanes
Reginald F. Lewis, J.D., Harvard Graduate. Entrepreneur. Businessman. Billionaire.
I continue to be fascinated by Reginald F. Lewis.
I have numerous yellowing articles that were written about him shortly after his death. I have placed them in the 1995 book Why should white guys have all the fun--How Reginald Lewis Created a Billion-Dollar Business Empire
I was in my office when a coworker brought the obituary of Reginald Lewis to me in 1993. I was saddened to learn of Lewis' death. My coworker and I talked about his amazing career. My fascination started in the mid 1980's when I did a lot of sewing. McCall Patterns were the ones I used most. I was surprised, no, astounded to learn that the McCall Pattern Company was owned by the TLC Group, an African American firm. I was further surprised to find that the company had been purchased through a major buyout. My short time working in finance helped me appreciate and understand that buyout's are extremely complex.
Reginald F. Lewis was born December 7, 1942, in Baltimore Maryland. He died of brain cancer January 19, 1993. His bio reads like a rocky fairytale. Lewis died before he could finish writing his autobiography. Thus his biography was completed through painstaking research by former newspaper journalist and author, Blair S. Walker.
It's said that Reginald Lewis delivered newspapers when he was young. In an article Fortune Magazine reported that as a child Lewis had kept the money he made in a tin can known as "Reggie’s Hidden Treasure." He sold his newspaper delivery business at a profit.
In Dunbar high school Lewis was elected vice-president of the student body and at some point was captain of the football, baseball and basketball teams. Lewis attended Virginia State University on a football scholarship and graduated on the Dean’s List with economics as his major in 1965. After graduating he was accepted at Harvard Law School. He received his law degree from Harvard in 1968.
He went to work for the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, & Garrison for approximately two years. Lewis later became a partner with two other African American attorneys creating, Murphy, Thorpe & Lewis. It was the first Black law firm on Wall Street. Then in 1983 Lewis created the TLC Group L.P. and his dream to "do the deals" himself took off. TLC purchased the McCall Pattern Company through a leveraged buyout at $22.5 million. It was sold at $90 million in 1987.
In October of the same year he purchased Beatrice Foods international division and changed the name to TLC Beatrice International. It became the largest African-American owned business in the United States. By 1992 the company's sales rose to over $1.50 billion.
In 1987, The Reginald F. Lewis Foundation was established. The first major donation from the Foundation was made in 1988, a $1 million grant was given to Howard University. He never went to Howard. Lewis through his Foundation gave a grant of $3 million to his alma mater, Harvard Law School. At the time it was the largest grant in the Law School's history. Harvard in turn named its International Law Center building for Reginald F. Lewis.
Color and race notwithstanding Reginald F. Lewis was an amazing man. Read his biography and you will find that like rest of us he was flawed and had his ups and downs in business and in his personal life. During this time he did marry and have children.
Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun reads like an adventure, and of course it is. It is the adventure of one man's journey from the very ordinary life of a young African American boy to become, according to Forbes magazine, one of the four-hundred wealthiest business people in America.
Entrepreneur Reginald F. Lewis beat the odds against success. Before he died, Lewis gave Harvard Law School what was then, the largest grant in the law school's history.
Read more here, http://www.law.harvard.edu/academics/fellowships/the-reginald-f.-lewis-fellowships-for-law-teaching.html
``Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?'': How Reginald Lewis Created a Billion-Dollar Business Empire