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John Werner Kluge
Born September 21, 1914 (1914-09-21) (age 95)
Chemnitz, Germany
Occupation Chairman, Metromedia
Net worth US$6.5 billion (2009)[1]

John Werner Kluge (born September 21, 1914) is a German-American entrepreneur and a billionaire. He is best known as a television industry mogul in the United States.


Early life

Kluge was born in Chemnitz, Germany. He earned his B.A. degree in Economics from Columbia University in 1937. Prior to attending Columbia University, Kluge went to Wayne State University for 2 years.

Metromedia and Metromedia Company

Kluge's major move into media was by purchasing stock in the Metropolitan Broadcasting Corporation in the mid-1950s. The Metropolitan Broadcasting Corporation was the successor of the DuMont Television Network, which was spun-off from DuMont Laboratories after the television network ceased operations in 1956. Metropolitan Broadcasting consisted of two stations, WABD in New York City and WTTG in Washington, D.C., both former DuMont outlets now operating as independent stations. Kluge joined the company as its board chairman and largest stockholder in 1958, acquiring the bulk of his shares from founder Allen B. DuMont for about USD $6,000,000.

After gaining control, Kluge began the company's expansion further into broadcasting, with holdings in television and radio. In the early 1960s, Kluge bought an outdoor advertising firm, and in 1961 the company's name was changed to Metromedia to reflect the diversity of its interests.

In 1986, Kluge sold the Metromedia television stations to the 20th Century Fox film studio, which was now controlled by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, for a reported USD $4 billion. Those stations would later form the core of what would become the Fox television network. The following year, Forbes Magazine placed John Kluge at the top of its list as the richest man in America.

In retaliation for a lawsuit brought by Paul Winchell, who sought the rights to his children's television program, "Winchell-Mahoney Time," Metromedia management, under orders from Kluge, unethically destroyed the video tapes. Mr. Winchell was later awarded nearly $18 million as compensation for Metromedia's capricious behavior.

Following the Fox disposal, Kluge's activities have been carried out through a private venture named Metromedia Company in which he is a partner with Stuart Subotnick. Metromedia's more recent activities have included Eastern European, Commonwealth of Independent States and China telecom/cable/radio ventures through Metromedia International Group and the ill-fated US telecom backbone operation Metromedia Fiber Network. In July 2008, the Metromedia Restaurant Group, part of the Metromedia Company, closed over 300 company-owned Bennigan's and Steak and Ale restaurants.[2]



John W. Kluge Center

In celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Library of Congress, Kluge donated an unprecedented $60 million to create the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. It was created as an academic center where accomplished senior scholars and junior post-doctoral fellows might gather to make use of the Library's incomparable collections and to interact with members of the United States Congress. In addition, his gift would establish a $1 million dollar prize to be given in recognition of a lifetime of achievement in the human sciences, comparable to the Nobel Prizes in literature and economics. The Kluge Prize would honor lifetime intellectual achievement in the same way as the Kennedy Center Honors recognize lifetime achievement in the performing arts.

Columbia University

Acknowledging the scholarship funds that enabled him to attend, Kluge gave more than $110 million to Columbia University between 1987 and 1993, primarily to endow financial aid for undergraduates from underprivileged backgrounds. His donations also help many of these students pursue Ph.D.s after they graduate by financing their doctoral studies.

On April 11, 2007, Columbia University's President Lee C. Bollinger announced a $400 million pledge from Kluge, which the university will receive upon the donor's death. The donation marks the fourth largest gift to an institution of higher learning in America, all designated for financial aid. This marks the largest pledge ever devoted exclusively to student aid to any single institution of higher education in the United States. [3]


Kluge has three children, Joseph, Samantha, and John Jr. He currently lives in Virginia and Florida with his fourth wife, Maria Tussi Kluge.

See also


  1. ^ "#35 John Kluge - The Forbes 400 Richest Americans 2009". 2009-09-30. Retrieved 2009-10-05.  
  2. ^ Mike Hughlett, "Bennigan's wake: Hard times for restaurants: Sour economy, rising costs plague industry", Chicago Tribune, July 30, 2008
  3. ^ "John Kluge, CC'37, Pledges $400 Million for Financial Aid". Columbia University. 2007-04-11. Retrieved 2007-04-17.  

External links

Preceded by
Sam Walton
America's Richest Person
October 23, 1989 - 1990
Succeeded by
Sam Walton


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