THE TISCH DYNASTY: How Two Boys From Brooklyn Became The Biggest Name In New York

tisch bothers andrew jim john

Photo: AP Photo

Tisch School of the Arts, Tisch Hospital… in New York City, the Tisch name is everywhere. The family owns holding company Lowes corporation, and recent estimates put their wealth at $21 billion.That, dear readers, makes them a very wealthy, powerful American family.

But unlike some of the families we’ve written about before (The Astors or Vanderbilts), their wealth can’t be traced back to the 1800s. Theirs is the story of two Brooklyn brothers who started out with one hotel, then added to their empire as America was booming after World War II.

And they just kept adding.

The family wealth started with Brooklyn brothers Laurence and Preston Tisch

Preston Robert 'Bob' Tisch was born on April 29, 1926 and his brother Laurence Alan 'Larry' Tisch was born on March 5, 1923.

The brothers come from the Bensonhurst neighbourhood and their parents were Russian immigrants.

'My parents were middle class and like everybody else in Brooklyn at the time, they worked hard and tried to move up the scale,' Mr. Tisch said in an interview with Newsday in 1991.

Source: The Jewish Week, NYT

Larry made his first investment after graduating from NYU and Wharton. It was a winter resort.

He bought the place for $125,000 with seed money from his parents. Bob joined him in the business 2 years later after a stint in the Army and graduating from the University of Michigan.

Source: The NY Observer

After that, the brothers started buying up hotels like crazy.

After buying properties in New Jersey and New York, the Tisch brothers solidified their place in the American hotel business by building the $17 million Americana Hotel in Bal Harbour, Florida. They paid for it in cash and it was sold to Sheraton in the 1970s.

After that deal, they acquired big name hotels like the Mark Hopkins, the Drake, the Belmont Plaza, and the Regency.

Speaking of The Regency, Rob Tisch is crediting with coining the term 'power breakfast' for his early morning meetings there.

Source: Jrank.org, NYT

Hotels weren't enough, the brothers decided to build an empire. Its crown jewel is Loews Corporation.

Yes, Lowes as in the movie theatres. The brothers bought that company from MGM in 1959 after an anti-trust ruling forced production companies to sell their theatre holdings.

The Tisch brothers had no interest in movies though. They wanted the real estate the movie theatres were sitting on. Once purchased, they turned Lowes into a holding company and diversified it to include tobacco, insurance, and off-shore drilling companies.

Source: NY Observer

But if you're going to build a dynasty you need children to carry it on. The brothers had 7.

Laurence married Wilma 'Billie' Stein and they had 4 sons -- Andrew, Dan, James, and Tom.

Robert married Joan Hyman and they had 2 sons and a daughter -- Steven, Jonathan and Laurie.

Pictured: Laurie Tisch (ex-wife of hedge funder Donald Sussman) and her daughter Carolyn.

Source: NYT, NYT

For all their wealth, it's said that the family lived relatively simply.

Check out this bit about Larry and his sons from his NYT obit:

At one point, all but Tom worked with their father in his Fifth Avenue office, with ''spare furnishings and beige industrial carpeting reminiscent of a Howard Johnson's motor inn,'' according to a 1986 article in The Times Magazine. Surrounded by his sons, Mr. Tisch often invited a rabbi to his headquarters to discuss Bible passages and Talmudic interpretations. For relaxation at night, he played bridge, and on weekends, he played tennis with close friends and fellow investors.

But since they had money, they did what truly rich people do — they donated it.

The Tisch name is everywhere in New York City.

There's NYU's Tisch School of Performing Arts, Tisch Hospital at the N.Y.U. Medical centre, and the Tisch Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum to name a few.

Most recently, they've had a major hand in the renovation of Washington Square Park.

Some donations that don't bare their names at all, but are incredibly important to the City.

Before they left the business world, Larry was credited with saving CBS, and Bob was appointed Post Master General

The brothers eventually appointed successors, but not before making an indelible mark on the business world. Larry bought a stake in CBS, and controversially (at times) lead it through one of its most tumultuous periods and ended up making a billion dollars for Lowes off of its eventual sale to Westinghouse Electric Corporation in 1995.

Bob Tisch was appointed postmaster general by Ronal Reagan in 1986. He also bought the family's stake in the New York Giants in 1991.

Source: NYT, NYT

Larry died in 2003, Bob in 2005 on the same day, but the brothers had planned their succession carefully.

From the Observer:

It was in 1999 that Bob and Larry announced the company's succession plan: Jim would be the C.E.O. of Loews Corp., while Bob's son Jonathan inherited his father's role as C.E.O. of the hotels. Larry's son Andrew is chairman of the executive committee of the Loews board. Additionally, the brothers made all three sons equal members of the office of the president--a unique power-sharing arrangement that seems designed to head off family strife.

Meanwhile, West Coast transplant Steven runs a production company and Executive VP of the NY Giants

Steven has produced some awesome films like Forrest Gump, American History X, and Snatch. He started his own company in 1986 and it's called the Steven Tisch Company.

And in case you didn't know, the NY Giant's are 2012 SuperBowl champions (the family owns 50% of the team).

Good that the work is divided, because the Tischs are holding a lot at this point.

From Bloomberg Markets:

  • The company now oversees 17 luxury hotels in the U.S. and Canada,
  • insurer CNA (CNA) Financial Corp.,
  • four dozen oil rigs and drill ships,
  • a $2 billion natural gas exploration company,
  • and pipelines that carry 11 per cent of America's average daily natural gas consumption.

Meanwhile, under Jim Tisch, Lowes has enjoy an 8% annualized return (that's better than Buffett!) and they haven't made an investment in five years.

For kicks, here's a photo of their Miami Hotel

We hope you're not looking at that from work.

The next generation seems to be turning out well too. Jessica Tisch works in counterterrorism at the NYPD

She's the director of policy and planning and Jim's daughter.

Source: CBS

Then there's David Tisch, an entrepreneur in his on right, and managing director of TechStars

David started investing when he was a teenager. He took his Bar Mitzvah money and invested in Ebar -- that one alone gave him a 15x return.

Now he's the managing director of Tech Stars, a NYC based 3-month mentorship program for hot, promising tech startups. Each year 12 are selected.

If that isn't enough for you, David's also made 43 angel investments.

More interested in an older family?

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