Nov. 30 marks the 30th Anniversary of the deal that changed the face of U.S. financial industry
Washington, D.C.—On November 30, 1987, Reginald Francis Lewis negotiated the $985 million leveraged buyout of Beatrice International Foods, which at that time, was the largest offshore transaction in the United States. The Wall Street move was celebrated around the world as the deal that made Lewis the first-ever African American billionaire business tycoon. Michael Milken was his investment banker, and the company made the Fortune 500.
To mark the 30th anniversary of the historic deal, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, Maryland will be placing the financial transaction milestone in the United States Congressional Record in honor of Lewis’s work that changed the face of American business forever, opening the doors for more African Americans, women and minorities, to play in the billion-dollar-business league.
The event also marked the founding of TLC Beatrice International Holdings, Inc., the first African American-owned enterprise to break through the billion-dollar mark when it grossed $1.8 billion in sales on its first year.
Very recently, President Barack Obama said to Lewis’s daughter Leslie Lewis, “Your father had the work ethic, the skills and the knowhow. But beyond that, he had the temperament, the self-assurance, the confidence that he could do it and that he belonged there. Being the First of anything requires a certain mindset. Reginald Lewis had it.”
When Lewis died from brain cancer in 1993, he left behind a legacy that continues to inspire young African Americans, and all Americans of color. In his hometown, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture will be celebrating his 75th birth anniversary with an event called “Reginald F. Lewis, The Conversation: The $Billion Deal, The Lifestyle, The Man,” Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, 10:00 a.m. in Baltimore, Maryland.
Special guests include: Keith Perrin, the co-founder of FUBU and executive of The Shark Group with Daymond John; Jean S. Fugett Jr. (Lewis’s brother, former TLC Beatrice International CEO; Clarence “Tiger” Davis (Lewis’s high school classmate); author Lin Hart (classmate at Virginia State University); and William C. Slattery (classmate at Harvard Law School). Lewis’s widow, Filipino American lawyer Loida Nicolas Lewis, and his mother, Carolyn Fugett, will be present to help you really know the man.
Reginald Lewis was known for being the first (and still the only) person accepted to Harvard Law School without applying to the prestigious 148-year-old institution. As a testament to Lewis's brilliance and generosity, The Reginald F. Lewis International Law Center stands at Harvard Law School today, as the first building on their campus named after an African American.
In 1987, Lewis founded his eponymous Foundation to carry out his vision and mission for philanthropy (supporting educational programs for minorities and underprivileged youth, as well as showcasing and preserving African American art and culture); this was continued by his family, even after his death. They also completed the autobiography that Lewis had begun (with co-author Blair S. Walker), which became the bestseller, “Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun? How Reginald Lewis Created a Billion-Dollar Business Empire.”
Now more than ever, his name is recognized by the younger generation as an inspiration and model for entrepreneurship. Today, there is the Reginald F. Lewis High School of Business & Law in Baltimore, the Reginald F. Lewis High School of Business and Law in Baltimore, the Reginald F. Lewis College of Business at Virginia State University, and The Lewis College in Sorsogon City, Philippines, his widow’s hometown. In Baltimore, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture stands as a tribute to the man’s legendary achievements.
Lewis’s daughters are keeping his legacy alive by making invaluable contributions not only to the African American community, but also to American society as a whole. Leslie Lewis is a consummate performer and executive producer, most recently recognized for her moving one-woman show called “Miracle in Rwanda,” based on a true story of surviving violence, overcoming odds and the power of forgiveness.
Christina Lewis Halpern founded All Star Code, a not-for-profit organization that seeks to help young men of color with the tools they need to become a new generation of entrepreneurs, who will confidently navigate the multi-billion-dollar technology industry, and create more economic opportunity.
Highlights of Lewis’s exceptional life are also permanently displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and a documentary about his life is slated for release on WNET in February 2018.
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