How John Kluge Became a Media Mogul

On this day, September 21 in the year 1914, the one-time richest person in the United States was born in Chemnitz, Germany. His name was John Kluge Sr., the former chairman and CEO of Metromedia Broadcasting Corporation.

John Kluge
John Kluge (Credit: wiki commons)

John Kluge was born without seeing his father who died earlier in the First World War. He grew up under the care of mother who worked as a typist. In 1922, he moved to the United States with his American stepdad who owned a contracting and painting business in Detroit. Later, the family moved to a small farm where the young John developed his entrepreneurial skills selling apples from his uncle’s farm and newspapers to his neighbors. He also put up a snow shoveling business. After his first year in high school, he left home because his stepfather forbid him to continue his studies and tried to force him to join in the business. Fortunately, a former teacher adopted him and strictly set for him a high standard of behavior including table manners.

John Kluge was able to finish high school and went on to study at the Wayne State University. He later transferred to Columbia University which offered him scholarship with living allowance. In 1937, he finished a degree in economics. After graduation, he joined a paper company where he received no salary but with a contract to get one-third interest in the company if he doubled sales. He got it.

After World War II, John was able to accumulate capital to buy a radio station. In the 1950s, he purchased the controlling shares of Metropolitan Broadcasting Corporation and appointed himself as chairman and CEO. In 1961, he changed the name of the company to Metromedia to reflect the expanded operation which by then included outdoor advertising. In 1986, the television stations were sold to 20th Century Fox for $4 billion and in 1989, Forbes magazine named him the richest man in America. Three years later, he was dislodged by Bill Gates. He never recovered the distinction.

John Kluge died in 2010 at the age of 95. He married 4 times and had 3 children, two of whom are adopted.


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