Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Kluge, John W(erner) (1914–2010) from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

German-born US businessman and philanthropist. After the war he worked as an executive with radio broadcasting companies, and also began investing in a number of other enterprises. His company, Metromedia, acquired and built so many radio and television stations that it soon became the largest independent broadcast network, and also possessed an advertising division. In 1963 Kluge acquired the Ice Capades and in 1976 the Harlem Globetrotters. When he sold his Metromedia television interests in 1985 it was for $2 billion. By 1989 he was regarded as the richest citizen in the USA, with his personal fortune estimated at approximately $5.5 billion, although his ranking fell in the 1990s. He continued to invest in numerous activities, including filmmaking, restaurants, and telecommunications (particularly in Eastern Europe and other emerging markets), through a private venture vehicle named Metromedia Company.

Kluge was born in Chemnitz, Germany. He emigrated to the USA in 1922 and grew up in Detroit, Michigan, where his mother remarried. He worked on the Ford Motors assembly line before going to Columbia University in New York City; there he earned a BA in economics in 1937. He went to work for a small paper company and then served with the Army Intelligence in World War II. Kluge was known for his generosity to a variety of causes: in 1960 he presented a rare white tiger to President Eisenhower as a ‘gift to the children of America’; he supported the United Cerebral Palsy Research and Educational Foundation; in 1992 he singlehandedly subsidized the exhibit of works from the Vatican Library; and in 1993 he donated $60 million to Columbia University to provide scholarships for minority students, having already given $50 million to the institution in the past. In 2000 he donated $60 million to start the John W Kluge Center in the Library of Congress and in 2007 he announced a $400 million contribution to Columbia University, one of the largest gifts ever to an educational institution.

© RM, 2016. All rights reserved.