The Success Story of Reginald Lewis

On December 7 in the year 1942, one of the most celebrated African-American businessmen was born in Maryland, United States of America. His name was Reginald Lewis, the former chairman and CEO of TLC Beatrice International, LLC.

Reginald Lewis
Reginald Lewis (Credit: thirteen.com)

Reginald Lewis was the son of a postal worker father and a teacher mother. At the age of 9, he began selling newspaper and deposited his profits in a tin can which was given by his grandmother who advised him of the importance of savings. He attended Virginia State University before he enrolled at Harvard Law School where he graduated in 1968. He then joined a law firm but in the 1970s, he set up his own law firm specializing in venture capital transactions.

In 1983, Reginald Lewis acquired McCall Pattern Company, a dress pattern company for $23 million in a leveraged buyout (LBO) which was then a popular method of acquisition at that time. This means that he only used a small amount of money of his own ($1 million) and the rest he borrowed from investment bank First Boston Corporation. After managing it for a while, the company became profitable and he sold it for $63 million. Almost overnight, he became famous in Wall Street.

In 1987, Reginald Lewis made headlines when he offered to buy Beatrice Foods, a Europe-based company with international operations, for $985 million. The deal was partly financed with the help of another famous LBO specialist, Michael Milken. He renamed the company TLC Beatrice International and move to Paris with his family in order to manage it closely. Using the same management techniques he used at McCall such as cost cutting by selling unprofitable operations and underutilized assets, he grew the business to a $2 billion-company in 1993.

Reginald died of brain cancer in 1993 at the age of 50. He had two daughters with his wife Loida Nicolas from the Philippines. At the time of his death, he was one of the richest black Americans with a net worth of $400 million, according to Forbes magazine. TLC which was taken from The Lewis Company was then the largest company owned and headed by a black person.

References
http://www.encyclopedia.com/people/social-sciences-and-law/business-leaders/reginald-f-lewis
http://www.nytimes.com/1993/01/20/us/reginald-f-lewis-50-is-dead-financier-led-beatrice-takeover.html
http://www.lewismuseum.org/about/reginald-lewis

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