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Daniel Keith Ludwig (June 24, 1897, South Haven, Michigan - August 27, 1992) was a US shipping magnate and billionaire. Even though he was one of the wealthiest men of his day, his name was little known. Throughout his business life, he maintained a low profile and ceased speaking to the press in the 1950s.

Ludwig has the distinction of being #1 on the first Forbes 400 Richest Americans list published in 1982.

Contents

Childhood

Ludwig's parents were Daniel F. Ludwig (1873-1960), nicknamed "Lud", and Flora Belle Ludwig (1875-1961). They separated when young Daniel was 15, and he was taken, by his father, to Port Arthur, Texas to live with an uncle and aunt. Ludwig's mother was left alone in South Haven without any means of support and her fate was unknown.

Ludwig's first venture into shipping was at the age of 9, when he salvaged a 26-foot (8 m) boat. He left school at the end of eighth grade to work in various shipping related jobs, directly learning such trades as machinist, marine engineer, and ship handler. In Port Arthur, he sold supplies to sailing ships and steamers. He returned to Michigan to take a job at a marine engine plant, which sent him to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Early Business Ventures

At 19, Ludwig established himself in the shipping business when he began transporting molasses around the Great Lakes.

In the 1930s, he developed a novel approach to financing further expansion, by borrowing the construction cost of tankers and using pre-agreed charters as collateral. His National Bulk Carriers became one of the largest American shipping companies, and he eventually owned about 60 vessels. His shipyards used welding instead of riveting — which saved time during World War II, when there was huge demand for new ships. After the war, his ships transported oil around the world and he pioneered the construction and use of the new oil supertankers in the 1950s.

Ludwig diversified into an oil refinery, banking, cattle ranching, insurance, and real estate. He invested in various mining and exploration projects in Americas, Africa, Australia and the Middle East. He created a chain of luxury hotels in Mexico, Bermuda and the Bahamas, and developed Westlake Village, California.

In 1971, using his foreign assets, Ludwig founded the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Switzerland, which became his primary interest in old age. Since his death, it has distributed over a billion dollars around the world for cancer research.

Personal life

Daniel K. Ludwig was married twice. His first marriage, to Gladys Madeline Ludwig (1904-1978), in Florida on October 29, 1928, produced a daughter, Patricia Margaret, born on October 8, 1936. They divorced in April 1937.

Several months later, Ludwig married Gertrude Virginia Higgins, a widow, (January 13, 1897 to April 8, 1993), who had three children from a previous marriage. Gertrude, nick-named "Ginger", would remain married to Ludwig until his death.

Princess International Hotels

Ludwig built or bought an impressive collection of hotels. These were: the Princess (Xanadu) and Southampton Princess in Bermuda; the Bahamas Princess (formerly the King's Inn) and the Princess Tower (formerly the International) in Freeport; the Acapulco Princess and the Pierre Marques in Mexico; and the Francis Drake in San Francisco. Howard Hughes acquired the Xanadu Princess in 1973, and lived there for two years prior to his death.

Exportadora de Sal, SA

In 1954, on a trip to Baja California Sur, Ludwig founded Exportadora de Sal, SA, which became the "Largest Salt Company in the World", at the Guerrero Negro Lagoon. As the area was largely uninhabited, the necessary workers and materials were sent to build a large, new town in the municipality of Mulegé. Here, the saltworks were established by pumping the brine to the surface and allowing it to dry. In 1973, with rumors that the Mexican Government would nationalize the company, Ludwig sold his interest in Exportadora de Sal, SA to Mitsubishi, who now own 49% with the Mexican government holding the controlling interest.

Citricos de Chiriqui, SA

In a 25 million dollar 1960 project in Panama, Ludwig bought 10,000 acres (40 km2) of land in Dolega, in the interior of Panama. He had all the land cleared and built roads and bridges. 800,000 Velencia orange trees were planted and full production was expected in 1967. It was considered the largest privately owned venture of its kind in the world. Years later it would fall into government hands. In a New York Times article, "Auction Fails in Panama," May 27, 1991, Citricos de Chriqui, SA failed to attract any bidders, the minimum asking price was 13.9 million.

Jari Project

In 1967, Ludwig purchased about 4 million acres (16,000 km²) of land near the mouth of the Amazon River. His agricultural ventures on that land, called the Jari project, ultimately proved much less successful than his earlier shipping ventures. Large losses and mounting criticism of his business practices led him to hand over the project to Brazilian investors in 1981.

External links

References

  • Shields, Jerry (1986). The Invisible Billionaire, Daniel Ludwig. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-35402-1.  
  • Saunders, Dero A., "The Wide Oceans of D. K. Ludwig," Fortune, May, 1957.
  • Ex-Wife sues Tycoon Ludwig for 10 million" (San Francisco Chronicle, January 27, 1978)
  • Twilight of a Tycoon" (Time, November 30, 1978, p.77) available online
  • Saunders, Dero A., "The Wide Oceans of D.K. Ludwig," Fortune, May 1957
  • Arnold, James R., North American Heritage, Oct 1985 (Vol., V11, No3)
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