Behn, Sosthenes

Behn, Sosthenes

(1882–1957) businessman; born on Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands. After being educated in Paris, he immigrated to the U.S.A. in 1898, but immediately left to join his brother Hernand Behn in opening a brokerage house in Puerto Rico. In 1914 the sugar crop failed and Behn Brothers, Inc. acquired the local telephone system as security against a crop loan. The brothers expanded, adding the Cuban telephone system (1916), and in 1919 linked the Cuban system to Florida. In 1920 they incorporated the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (IT&T) in Maryland; Sosthenes served as president until 1948, then became chairman of the board (1948–56). There followed a period of rapid growth as IT&T built a network of international cable and local systems in countries throughout the world. As world conditions deteriorated in the 1930s and 1940s, Sosthenes sold local telephone companies to governments and consolidated operations in Great Britain and the United States. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the French Legion of Honor for service in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War I.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.