Cincinnati entrepreneur Carl H. Lindner, Jr. dies at 92

CINCINNATI - A source close to the family with knowledge of the situation, told 9 News that Carl H. Lindner, Jr. died Monday night.

According to a report from Hamilton County Dispatchers, paramedics were called to the 92-year-old's Indian Hill home after he had trouble breathing early Monday morning. Lindner was then rushed to Jewish Hospital after suffering cardiac arrest around 3:48 a.m. He was transported to Christ Hospital, where he later died.

Born on April 22, 1919, Lindner leaves behind a legacy of economic, educational and cultural contributions to Cincinnati.

In the 1940s Lindner dropped out of high school to help deliver milk for his family's dairy. He, along with his brothers and sister, eventually opened an ice cream shop in Norwood that grew into United Dairy Farmers. But this was just the beginning of his entrepreneurial success.

On Tuesday, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory released a statement about Lindner's passing and his lasting legacy.

"Carl Lindner has left a tremendous mark on our region. He understood the impact that his money could have on people and causes in our community, and he took his ability to make positive change seriously," Mallory said in the statement. "But, he also did a lot of things that he never even took credit for. His legacy will be felt for a long time. My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family. Cincinnati mourns a truly great Cincinnatian."

Sen. George Voinovich said it best when addressing the House on Lindner's 80th birthday on April 22, 1999.

"Mr. President, there are few Americans I know who have done as much and given as much to their nation as Carl Lindner," Voinovich said.

Lindner expanded his investments first to savings and loans, then on to insurance. In 1959, he founded American Financial Corporation. Until his death, he served as the chairman of the company's board and CEO. He controlled Chiquita Brands International for 17 years and also chaired the board of Great American Financial Resources.

"Carl Lindner, Jr. was a great leader, innovator, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He measured success by improving the lives and opportunities of others. We were all honored to learn from his example of community involvement with heartfelt generosity and little care for recognition," said Chiquita in a statement the company released Tuesday. "Our community has lost a great leader but his example endures."

In the business world, some critics considered him a ruthless takeover artist. He made millions in the 1970s and 1980s by investing, then retreating, from companies.

An alleged attempt by Lindner to take over Gannett Co. prompted former chairman Al Neuharth to call him a "shark in sheep's clothing."

Lindner made a name for himself by becoming one of Michael Milken's earliest and most prominent junk-bond players. But he also showed his investment smarts by predicting a decline in the junk-bond market in the late 1980s.

"Of course, Carl was always a couple years ahead of the pack," said James Dahl, a former bond seller for Milken.

As a lifetime resident of Cincinnati, Lindner contributed greatly to the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, the Cincinnati Zoo, Lindner Park, the Cincinnati Museum Center, the Lindner Family Tennis Pavilion and Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy.

His financial support for the University of Cincinnati, which named its business administration building after him, and various charities earned him a reputation as a philanthropist.

Tributes from current and former business school students poured into Twitter early Tuesday. They thanked Lindner for championing the city and the university and sharing his wealth with them.

"He's got to be one of the most generous guys in Cincinnati," friend Richard Farmer, chairman of Cincinnati uniform maker Cintas Corp., said in 1993. "I don't know of any positive thing that's happened in Cincinnati that Carl has not been a part of."

That community service and Lindner's generosity have earned him dozens of awards and accolades. Among them are The Beacon of Light Humanitarian Award by Lighthouse Youth Services, the Urban League's prestigious Heritage Award, and, as a 33rd Degree Mason, a distinguished humanitarian honor.

Though Lindner never graduated high school, he earned honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Cincinnati, Xavier and a host of other colleges.

To Reds fans, he was Uncle Carl, the majority owner of the team who brought hometown hero Ken Griffey back to the ball club. Lindner's purchase on Oct. 1, 1999 ensured hometown ownership of the home team, and quieted the turbulence that enveloped the team near the end of Marge Schott's ownership.

Despite the business acquisitions and the accolades for his charitable work, Lindner studiously avoided the spotlight.

"Mr. President, if you look up humility in the dictionary, there you should see a picture of Carl Lindner," Voinovich added in his address to the House.

Carl Lindner, Jr. will be remembered as a devoted Baptist, loving husband to his beloved Edyth, father to Carl, Keith and Craig and a devoted grandfather.

Carl H. Lindner III, 58, is president of Great American Insurance Co.

S. Craig Lindner, 56, is president of American Annuity Group and senior executive vice president of American Money Management.

Keith Lindner, 52, is vice chairman of Chiquita Brands International Inc.

And this entire community will miss its Uncle Carl.

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