Peter B. Lewis : biography
Peter B. Lewis (born November 11, 1933) is the Cleveland, Ohio-area based chairman of Progressive Insurance Companies.
After college, he joined Progressive Insurance as an underwriting trainee. In 1965, Lewis and his mother borrowed $2.5 million, pledging their majority stake as collateral, and completed a leverage buyout of Progressive. Lewis became Progressive's chief executive officer of a company, which at the time, had 40 employees. He grew the business and, by the 1960s, Progressive had over 100 employees and $6 million in revenues. Lewis focused on insuring high-risk drivers – where premiums were greater – using an innovative pricing system and consumer-friendly service offering competitor quote matching and instant claims service. He also brought in a slew of young, enthuiastic workers and devolved decision-making downward fostering a relaxed yet disciplined and creative corporate culture.
As of 2010, Progressive had grown to 27,250 employees with sales of $15.0 billion and become the third largest auto insurance company in the United States.http://weatherhead.case.edu/about/facilities/lewis/ In 2000 Lewis retired as CEO of Progressive, though he remains as Chairman of the Board.
In 1955, Lewis married Toby Devan. They amicably divorced in 1981. They had three children: retrieved March 23, 2013 Ivy, Jonathan and Adam Joseph. He has homes in Miami, Cleveland, New York City, and Aspen, Colorado; he also travels around the world on his Motor/Yacht, “Lone Ranger.” Since 1985, his ex-wife Toby, who had worked at the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, took over the expansive Progressive art collection.
Philanthropy and political contributions
Lewis frequently donates money to charities and political groups. He is a patron of the arts and supports many artistic pursuits. Lewis's personal and corporate contemporary art collection is well known—the corporate collection is displayed at Progressive Insurance offices. In September 2012 Lewis signed the Giving Pledge promising to give at least half his wealth to charity. September 20, 2012 Lewis has made donations to:
- Princeton University (A Gehry designed science library, $60 million; the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, $55 million; arts initiative, $101 million. Total $233 million to date.)
- Case Western Reserve University (The Weatherhead School of Management Peter B. Lewis Building, another Gehry design, $36.9 million, out of $61.7 total building cost)
- Marijuana Policy Project (Donated $3,000,000 to MPP in 2007.)
- The Guggenheim Museum ($50 million)
- America Coming Together and MoveOn.org (with George Soros matching his $10 and $2.5 million, respectively)
- American Civil Liberties Union $15m
- The Democratic Party
- Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies-sponsored MDMA/PTSD Research in the US, Switzerland and Israel $750,000 [www.maps.org]
- Support of California's Proposition 19 also known as the Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Act ( of $159,005 on 10/15/2010)
- Support for Washington Initiative 502 with contributions totaling over $1.5m.http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/wash-could-become-first-state-to-approve-recreational-sales-of-marijuana-for-those-over-21/2012/10/11/111d237a-13e7-11e2-9a39-1f5a7f6fe945_print.html
Lewis is a trustee of Princeton University, former chairman of the board of directors at the Guggenheim Museum (resigned January 19, 2005), and serves on the board of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Although Lewis often gives substantial gifts to artistic and educational organizations, he also has a reputation for — often forcefully — insisting that such organizations be financially accountable and financially sound; as of late 2004, Lewis has said he will no longer give to Case or Cleveland's University Circle neighborhood due to poor leadership and management. He has said that those funds might instead be diverted to Cleveland State University.
Lewis is an advocate of taxing and regulating the use and sale of marijuana and is one of the main financial backers of the recent, partially successful, campaign to legalize the use of marijuana for medical use in the U.S. In January 2000, Mr. Lewis was arrested and charged in New Zealand for possession of marijuana. Lewis pleaded guilty to three charges and paid a substantial fine, though under New Zealand law he was not required to serve time in jail or prison. According to his lawyer, Marie Dyhrberg, Lewis used the marijuana on the advice of his doctor for pain relief after the partial amputation of his leg in 1998., The New Zealand Herald, August 31, 2000
Early life and education
Lewis was raised in a Jewish retrieved July 23, 2012 September 24, 2012 family in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, September 29, 2002 the oldest of four children born to Helen and Joseph Lewis. May 24, 2010 His father – who had co-founded a small auto insurance company named Progressive Insurance with Jack Green in 1937 retrieved March 23, 2013 – was grooming Lewis to work at the company when he died at age 48 while Lewis was a junior at Cleveland Heights High School. In 1955, he graduated from Princeton University.
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