Bob and Larry Tisch were born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in the 1920’s. After graduating from New York University and Wharton, Larry purchased a winter resort in New Jersey with $125,000 in seed money from his parents. Bob joined him two years later and they started buying up hotels, then gained control of the Loews movie chain and diversified into tobacco, insurance and offshore drilling. Massive philanthropists, they joined the upper ranks of society, including membership in the Century, the classic “Our Crowd” country club.
Hardly a New York institution escaped the brothers’ largess. They donated enough to N.Y.U. to warrant the Tisch School of the Arts and the Tisch Hospital at the N.Y.U. Medical Center; there are also the Tisch Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum. Larry gave heavily to the Central Park Zoo, while Bob was patron to a variety of institutions, including the 92nd Street Y and Take the Field, a charity he founded to revitalize the city’s sports fields.
“They’re much more oriented toward institutions that are most important in the lives of average New Yorkers than on fine arts,” said Kathy Wylde, the C.E.O. of the New York City Partnership. “This is a born-in-Brooklyn dynasty that was characterized by no airs, no pretensions, no excessive display of their significant wealth—really no display of their significant wealth.”
When Larry Tisch took the reins at CBS, the network had been mismanaged for a decade. He protected it from an alliance of corporate raiders and conservative politicians, cleaned up the balance sheet and engineered a sale to Westinghouse—a deal that brought NBC’s shareholders significant profits. Meanwhile, Bob was busy as part owner of the New York Giants.
Larry died in 2003, and Bob followed him two years later to the day. Surviving them are their widows, Billie and Joan, seven Tisch children and 23 grandchildren.
Last month, the clan gathered for the wedding of 25-year-old Jessica Tisch, the daughter of Jim Tisch (Larry’s son) and his wife, Merryl. It was a several-hundred-person affair with a mirrored dance floor, held in a tent behind the Seagram Building. Merryl’s father, Rabbi Philip Hiat, married the couple at Central Synagogue.
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.
Not surprisingly, Jim, 53 (who reportedly earned the nickname “Little Larry” for his ability to spot undervalued businesses), and his wife Merryl are the power couple of the clan. Both are closely involved with Jewish causes: Jim is the former president of the U.J.A. Federation of New York, and Merryl chairs the board of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. She is also a member of the Board of Regents, the state committee that oversees New York State’s educational system.
The outspoken conservative of the family is Larry’s son Tommy, 52, who runs one of the brothers’ investment funds, Four Partners, which sometimes goes by the name FLF (short for “Four Lucky Fellows”). He sits on the board of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, supported John Faso for Governor and is an investor in The New York Sun. In true Tisch fashion, he is on the board of the N.Y.U. Medical Center as well as Brown University. His wife, Alice, has been active on the board of the Brearley School.
Andrew, 57, is on the board of PENCIL, the nonprofit known for its “Principal for a Day” program, and the City Parks Foundation. His wife Ann, a former reporter for NBC, co-founded an all-girls public school in Harlem.
Unlike his brothers, who all live on the Upper East Side, Daniel, 55, lives in Scarsdale with his wife, Bonnie, and runs another family fund, Mentor Partners. They are both active in Jewish causes, and Mr. Tisch sits on the N.Y.U. board.
“Each of the brothers is different—I think their parents encouraged that,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, a family friend and the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Like his father Bob, Jonathan, 53, is the public face of the hotels. Now a bachelor, his wedding to Laura Steinberg, the daughter of Saul Steinberg, was held at the Metropolitan Museum’s Temple of Dendur and cost a reported $3 million. He’s an active Democratic fund-raiser. His sister Laurie, 55, who is divorced from Connecticut hedge-fund manager Donald Sussman, sits on the board of the Whitney and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. She is also the chairwoman of the Center for Arts Education, a nonprofit group that works to improve arts education in the public schools. Their brother Steven, 57, is a producer who lives in Beverly Hills—the only Tisch child to leave the New York area. He’s the family’s point man in their shared ownership of the New York Giants.
As children, the Tisches would gather at one of the family houses in Rye on the weekends and also vacationed together at Loews family properties. Now the children are branching out. At least one now summers on the East End: Jonathan has a place in Bridgehampton.
The family has a decentralized, personal approach to philanthropy. Jonathan just gave $40 million to his alma mater, Tufts, while Andrew and James have given jointly to their alma mater, Cornell. And James and Merryl gave money in 2004 to create the Laurence A. Tisch Professorship in Social Sciences at Harvard.
None of the 23 grandchildren work at the company. So far.
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