Reginald F. Lewis
Reginald F. Lewis was the first Black American to build a billion-dollar company. Lewis died on January 19, 1993 in New York City at age 50. He was born on December 7, 1942 in Baltimore, Maryland. The creation of TLC Beatrice International Holdings, Inc by Lewis was an amazing feat of hard work, remarkable ingenuity and true genius from a man who grew up in a middle class Baltimore neighborhood.
Lewis athletic prowess earned him a football scholarship to Virginia State University. He graduated from VSU with a political science degree in 1965. Upon graduation he participated in a special Rockefeller Foundation summer program at Harvard University that was designed to introduce African Americans to the study of law. Harvard was so impressed by Lewis that offered him the opportunity to attend the school in the fall. He became the first person in the 148 year history of Harvard University to be accepted without applying. He received his law degree in 1968.
After college he worked for two years at Paul, Weiss, Wharton & Garrison (a top law firm in New York). Lewis then started his own law firm and worked as a corporate lawyer for fifteen years before in 1983 establishing a private equity firm named the TLC Group L.P. The rest is history, his first major acquisition was the McCall Pattern Company, a $22.5 million dollar sewing pattern business. Lewis went on to buy Beatrice International Foods for $985 million dollars. He changed the name of the snack food, beverage and grocery store empire to TLC Beatrice International Holdings, Inc.
TLC Beatrice International Holdings, Inc. became the first Black owned billion-dollar company when it reported revenue over $1 billion in 1996 with $1.8 billion. Lewis and his wife Loida Nicolas-Lewis had two daughters, Leslie and Christina. Lewis died at the young age of 50 with brain cancer. Upon his death, his wife Loida Nicolas-Lewis took charge of the company.