Reginald F. Lewis
TLC Group L.P.
Reginald F. Lewis began his career at the age of 10, delivering the local Afro-American newspaper. Fortune Magazine reported that as a child, Mr. Lewis kept his earnings in a tin can known as “Reggie’s Hidden Treasure.” He later sold his newspaper business at a profit.
Mr. Lewis graduated from Virginia State University on the Dean’s List. He went directly to Harvard Law School after graduation. It was in his third year at Harvard that he discovered the direction for his career in a course on securities law. Lewis wrote his third year paper on takeovers.
After graduation, he went to work for a prestigious New York law firm. Within two years he established his own Wall Street law firm. While his focus was corporate law, Mr. Lewis also helped many minority-owned businesses secure badly needed capital. A desire to “do the deals myself” led to Lewis starting the TLC Group L.P. in 1983. His first major deal was the $22.5 million leveraged buyout of the McCall Pattern Co. Lewis nursed the struggling company back to health and, in the summer of 1987; he sold the company for $90 million, making $50 million in profit. Despite a declining market, under his leadership, McCall enjoyed the two most profitable years in its 113-year history. In October 1987, Mr. Lewis purchased, for $985 million, the international division of Beatrice Foods, with holdings in 31 countries, which became known as TLC Beatrice International. This deal was the largest buyout ever of overseas assets by an American company. As chairman and CEO, he moved quickly to reposition the company to pay down the debt and vastly increase the company’s worth. In 1992, the company had sales of over $1.6 billion.
Giving was part of his agenda and in 1987, he established The Reginald F. Lewis Foundation. Prior to his death, the foundation made grants of approximately $10 million to various education, children, community, civil rights, arts and health programs and organizations. His first major grant was made in 1988, an unsolicited $1 million grant to Howard University, a school he never attended. A grant of $3 million was made to Harvard Law School, then the largest grant in the school’s history. In gratitude, the school named its International Law Center building for Reginald F. Lewis.