Kluge, John W.

Kluge, John W. (Werner)

(1914–  ) businessman, philanthropist; born in Chemnitz, Germany. He came to the U.S.A. in 1922 and grew up in Detroit, where his mother remarried. He worked on the Ford Motors assembly line before going to Columbia University in New York City; he earned a B.A. in economics (1937). He went to work for a small paper company and then served with the Army Intelligence in World War II. After the war he worked as an executive with radio broadcasting companies, and as his own investments in various enterprises grew, he acquired and built so many radio and television stations that his Metromedia became the largest independent broadcast network; Metromedia also had an advertising division; in 1963 he acquired the Ice Capades and in 1976 the Harlem Globetrotters. When he sold Metromedia in 1985 it was for $2 billion. By 1989 he was regarded as the richest American, with his personal fortune estimated at some $5.5 billion. He had never been in the public spotlight until in 1981 he married for the third time, a 32-year old who had appeared nude in an English "skin mag"; he divorced her in 1990 but had to pay her $80 million a year in alimony. Although known for his generosity to a variety of causes—in 1960 he gave a rare white tiger to President Eisenhower as a "gift to the children of America," he had supported the United Cerebral Palsy Research and Educational Foundation, and in 1992 he singlehandedly subsidized the exhibit of works from the Vatican Library—his philanthropies had not been greatly publicized until 1993 when he gave $60 million to Columbia to provide scholarships for minority students; added to the $50 million he had previously donated to Columbia, it made Kluge one of the largest single benefactors of any American educational institution.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.