Carl H. Lindner, Jr. died October 17 at the age of 92. With his passing The Heritage Foundation lost a longtime friend and supporter, the conservative cause lost a stouthearted champion, the business world lost one of its great successes, and America lost one of her most loyal sons.
Carl’s success story is a remarkable one. He dropped out of school at the age of 14 and made his fortune the old-fashioned way, earning it through many years of 80-hour weeks and guided by a business sense of rare insight.
Born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1919, Carl spent most of his childhood in the Cincinnati suburb of Norwood. He and his brothers Robert and Richard and sister Dorothy worked with their parents in the dairy business, which began in Dayton and later moved to Cincinnati.
Carl became so engrossed with the family business that he didn’t finish high school. In 1940 his father opened one of America’s first retail dairy stores, a venture that grew into the United Dairy Farmers (UDF) chain of convenience stores. When Carl’s brothers were called into service during World War II and his father’s health declined, Carl began managing the business. In the 1960s when he turned it over to his brother Robert, the chain had more than 100 stores.
Carl went on to achieve successes that made him a legend in the business world. He founded American Financial Corp. (later American Financial Group), which became the hub of his financial empire. Between 1961 and 1980, as Carl diversified into banks, insurance, and a variety of industries, American Financial’s portfolio grew by more than 6,000 percent. He expanded his fortune by purchasing financially troubled or undervalued companies at a low cost and transforming them into profitable enterprises.
Over the years he bought Chiquita Brands International, the world’s largest banana distributor; the Cincinnati Reds baseball team; and the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper. He also owned Provident Bank, Penn Central Corp., Fisher Foods, American Financial Enterprises, Great American Insurance, Taft Broadcasting Co., Spelling Entertainment and General Cable Corp.
Carl was known for handing out small cards printed with pithy sayings. One of them said, “I like to do my giving while I’m living so I’m knowing where it’s going.” And give he did as a generous and public-spirited philanthropist. Carl’s friend Richard Farmer, head of the Cintas uniform maker in Cincinnati, once said, “He’s got to be one of the most generous guys in Cincinnati. I don’t know of any positive thing that’s happened in Cincinnati that Carl has not been a part of.
Edwin Meese III, Chairman of Heritage’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, remembers Carl as “a great patriot, an outstanding entrepreneur, and a generous civic leader. His support for our work in preserving constitutional government and the rule of law is deeply appreciated as an enduring legacy.”
Carl Lindner was a part of many good things, including The Heritage Foundation. He was a happy warrior and a friend of freedom. He will be missed.
Edwin J. Feulner
President, The Heritage Foundation