Dreamer Behind A ‘Born-In-Brooklyn’ Empire: Laurence A. Tisch, WG ’43

Laurence Tisch didn’t waste time. He graduated from college at 18, and by the age of 20, he had earned a Wharton MBA in industrial management. At age 23 he purchased a 300-room winter resort in Lakewood, NJ, with seed money from his Russian immigrant parents, and he was just getting warmed up.

From that single hotel, he and his brother Preston Robert “Bob” Tisch became self-made billionaires who built Loews Corp. into a $70 billion conglomerate. The enterprises that the two founded and developed were diversified by movie and hotel chains, as well as the natural gas pipeline Texas Gas Transmission, the tobacco company Lorillard, and the Bulova Watch Co. Laurence Tisch had an “uncanny ability to spot and acquire hugely profitable enterprises,” according to Randall Pinkston, a noted correspondent for the news division of CBS, a company that Tisch ran as CEO and board chairman beginning in 1986. Noted for cost-cutting measures, Tisch sold CBS to Westinghouse Electric for $5.4 billion in 1995.

Born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Tisch became a tremendous benefactor with his brother to New York City cultural institutions, including his undergraduate alma mater, New York University, which named the Tisch School of Arts for them. “Hardly a New York institution escaped the brothers’ largess,” wrote Anna Schneider-Mayerson in a recent column for the New York Observer. “This is a born-in-Brooklyn dynasty that was characterized by no airs, no pretensions, no excessive display of their significant wealth,” said Kathy Wylde, who heads the New York City Partnership.

Further, the brothers’ personalities complemented each other, with Bob more gregarious and visible and Laurence inconspicuously handling finances while being “the leader, the spark plug, the dreamer who would make the dream true,” noted NYU’s board chairman and fellow Wharton alumnus, Martin Lipton, W’52. Laurence Tisch served as a Penn trustee and chairman of NYU’s board, as well as led the United Jewish Appeal of New York and other nonprofits. He died in 2003.

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