Reginald F. Lewis–America’s First Black Billion Dollar Businessman

Hello everyone.
How you guys doing?>>Good.>>Good.
I’m gonna start with one word and I hope that you guys understand and
embody the power of the word dream. All of us have been there. All of us have had a dream. So we understand that word. The next word act. Because whatever dream you have, you
have to act upon that dream in order for it to come true. You guys all have a dream, right? You’ve heard the speech around this
time of year, you all have one. You guys have taken at least one step in
acting towards your dream by just coming and getting some free information from
someone who has been around the world and was married to
an unbelievable businessman. That unbelievable businessman,
for me, was a part of my dream. I’m gonna give you guys
a dream from a 40-year old, yeah me,
40-year old man in June that came true. I was working on as a part of
a board member at an event and I look over and I see this woman and
immediately know who she is. Now i’m sitting next to Roger Staubach
who, you guys were a little young, might know who that is. He is a great quarter back
NFL Super Bowl Champ. I’m sitting next to Roger Staubach and
I can’t take my eyes off this woman. And not for the reason that
some of you guys might think.>>[LAUGH]
>>But because I knew exactly who she was. She was married to the person
that helped me form my dream. And she’s sitting next to
former Mayor Dinkins and everyone’s coming up after the event
going to meet Mayor Dinkins and I go right to her and
said, hello, how are you? You wanna talk to Mayor Dinkins? I said no, I wanna talk to you. I read your husband’s autobiography, and
it set me on a path that changed my life. I’m a kid from meager beginnings from
northwest Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I went on to take a football scholarship
just like Mr. Reginald Lewis. I then decided to go and pursue law
school, just like Mr. Reginald Lewis. I then decided at some point to go
to the business side, just like Mr. Reginald Lewis. He became a billionaire, not yet,
but it’s gonna happen for me too.>>[LAUGH]
>>I give you that, because that was my dream. I had to act in order to do all
those things to be similar to Mr. Reginald Lewis. The fact that I’ve met her and
she opened her arms to me and we became friends is because she realizes
that I had a dream and she came here today because she realizes that each and
every one of you have a dream. I want you to embrace the story of Mr.
Reginald Lewis here. Let it set you on a path to act. You’ve taken the first
step by coming here. Use the social media outlets that
you guys use and be influential. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Tell your friends about it. Instead of talking about last nights
show or about what girlfriend got on. Tell them about how you heard
an amazing story of a businessman who because he was able to dream and act,
he lived a life of a trailblazer and then tell them how you’re
gonna do the same thing. With that, I will allow you to hear
an amazing, amazing, amazing story. I thank you guys all for coming. I hope you do become contagious. Tell your friends, tell your classmates. Watch the documentary. Because that’s how getting information
from someone that you consider an example is how your actions are going
to connect you to your dream. With no further ado,
it is with honor, absolute honor, that I get this opportunity to
announce to you, there will be two people on the stage, and they’ll
be having a fireside chat, if you will. Mrs. Loida Lewis, who is the widow to
the late great Mr. Reginald F Lewis. And there will be Marilyn Crawford. They will be having a conversation, learn
from it, make sure you watch the document. Thank you for your time.>>[APPLAUSE].>>And thank you very much to
my good friend, Bobby Brown. Professor Bobby Brown, because it
was his initiative that I am here. So before all of that, you know I thank
you for taking time out from your lunch to be here to listen to this
incredible story of Reginald Lewis. And they have mentioned it, the professor mentioned it,
Bobby Brown has mentioned it. Yes although you know it’s been out 20
years, 25 years, do read this book. Why should white guys have all the fun? He said that when he was six years old
listening to his grandma and grandpa as he was taking a bath, about why jobs
are always going, the good jobs are always going to white people and good homes,
you know they seem to have all the fun. So when he was coming out,
why should white guys have all the fun? And the sub title is how Reginald Lewis
created a billion dollar business empire. It is a very important book for
many people. So again, thank you very much being here.>>And go back and ask Dr. Tim Hall
to give you extra credit for coming.>>[LAUGH]
>>Reginald F Lewis definitely was a trail blazer and pioneer. But we have a special title for him. And if you look in Webster or
Oxford Dictionary, he was a titan, but he was a philanthropist, he was
a freedom fighter, he was a family man. He was an absolutely incredible
friend to those in need. And in addition to that,
he was very exceptional. There are a lot of firsts in his life. He created and helped found the first
black law firm on Wall Street. He was also the first man to do a billion
dollar deal for overseas leveraged buyout. He also was the first to, think about his next step,
which was to purchase Paramount Pictures. He also was the first to be admitted
into Harvard University without ever applying and may I add, the first and
the last in its 148 year history. He was a bad motor scooter, that’s what we
say down south, bad motor scooter, okay. And I want you to feel free to just relax,
engage with us. If you have a question, ask it,
even if it’s not a question, if it’s a statement, ask it. Cuz this is your time to learn and what an important time it is because I
see you as the future Reginald F Lewis’. Remember, from whence he came. Baltimore, Maryland. Whoever thought that this young black kid,
who created a paper route, and Mrs. Lewis will tell you more about
how he sold it at an early age, but whoever thought that he would come to New
York City, the Apple, and create, plan, coordinate and execute a billion
dollar leverage overseas buyout, that gorded him sixty four
companies in thirty one countries. And then go on to pay down their debt and then within a short time period,
do gross sales of $1.8 billion. Thirty years ago and today who do we have? We have P Diddy. We have Jay Z. We have Bethany Franklin. We have Dj Khalid. We have Rihanna. We have Beyonce. But he did this thirty years ago. Cross socioeconomic background,
cross cultural background, cross racist, 30 years ago,
can you imagine? 30 years ago, we were just getting
out of the Martin Luther King era. 30 years ago. So much to be grateful and
thankful for and to learn from today. And so I wanted you, as young students to
be able to relate to Reginald F Lewis. So what we created is called
the young entrepreneurs salute. A yes program and if you go on our
social networks you’ll see it. And we have all kinds of what they
call assets and photos and et cetera. And what we did is we selected 30 of
the top entrepreneurs of today and saluted them from
the Reginald F Lewis Foundation. And those are some of the names that
I just shared with you earlier, but you’ll see Jay-Z coming off his
private plane with his entourage. And you’ll see Reginald F Lewis coming
off his private plane with his entourage. You’ll see Beyonce and Jay Z being greeted
by the President of the United States. But you’ll see Mrs. Lewis and Mr. Lewis being greeted by
the President of the United States. You get me, you feel me. I don’t think you do.>>Yes.>>[LAUGH]
>>I’m very sad. Do you feel me?>>Yes.>>Okay, well tell me, talk to me. So the yes program is a way to get
everyone to relate to 30 years ago. And you can do me a favor,
you can yourself a favor. You can do everyone in America and
across the world, if they would, by sharing this information, tagging it,
sending it out to your friends, letting them know to watch
the documentary coming up. Because that kind of subject matter
is rarely in America and on TV. We see the MTV videos. We see them talking about what color
Kim Kardashian changed her lipstick to. There’s a naked picture of her in the bed,
excuse Dr. Hall, but we see all of that,
but this substance. This is something that’s gonna
grow your mind, your body, and your attitude, and bank account. So to you I say thank you again for
allowing us to share this story. And I’ll turn in over to the one who knows
him better than anyone else, Mrs. Lee.>>[APPLAUSE]
>>I think we’ll have to start from the beginning
when he was born in Baltimore. His mother and
father separated when he was five. They could not get along. And so his mother brought him
back home to her mother and father, his grandparents. And that night, when he was coming in,
five years old, there was a whole emotion
in the household. Why, because the grandpa and
grandma, his grandfather and grandmother had already ten children. Mrs. Fuget was the first
one who had a child at 17. At that time, she was 21. That sound right? 17 plus 5. 22. She was 22 and so
everybody was what’s this? And Mr. Lewis, then he was called Reggie, was going up the steps being
brought to the bedroom, he heard his grandfather curse. Blip blip blip, you know what that means. What? Another mouth to feed? And as he was going up he heard
his mother say, don’t worry dad. We pay our way. And the next morning when he woke up. Where’s Mommy? She was out working. So first lesson when
he was five-years-old. You take care of yourself. We pay our way. Okay.
Don’t depend on handouts. Don’t depend on somebody else. We depend on ourselves. And she was out working so
that’s the first lesson. Second, as you saw on
parts of the television. Okay, those five years were under his
grandmother and grandfather’s household. His grandfather was a head
waiter in a private club. A private Jewish club. His grandmother would clean
white people’s homes. And because no babies,
she is the babysitter. She would bring him while
she was going to clean. And at one time, maybe he was six
years old not yet going to school. He heard his, the white woman
whose house was being cleaned, why don’t you ask your
grandson to help you. And he heard his grandmother say no. He’s special and so from the very start,
he was given a sense of identity, that he’s special that
he’s do something good. Okay, that’s I think that formed him. And then when he was around seven or
eight he asked one of his aunts, why did my mother leave my father? And he was told because he
was not ambitious enough. And so in his mind when he was young, I’ll be sure when I grow up no woman will
leave me because I’m not ambitious enough. So those are little things as he was
growing up was impressed in his mind. And the family, ten children, ten sons and
daughters are all adults, all worked. They were not on welfare. They all worked. So, when he was ten years
old his mother remarried. The father, his name is Gene Fugit, was very, very loving but
not loving that he is forcing himself. He was the perfect stepfather. In fact,
my husband never called him stepfather. He was a father to him and
was encouraging always. He wanted to be a baseball player, okay? So his stepfather, well, Butch put a ball on a tree so that every afternoon
after school he could hit that ball. Hit that ball, hit that ball. Always at it, setting a goal and
going after it. At ten, he wanted to have his own income. And he would see, so he said I’m going to deliver
the Afro American newspaper twice a week. Every Friday and Tuesday or
Monday probably. So he would go after school,
he would deliver the newspaper. At around 12 years old he was
eligible to go to camp, YMCA. He said, I don’t want to go, who will
take care of delivering my papers. And his mother said,
don’t worry I’ll take care of it. So, he was at camp for two weeks. He would be the baby,
the first son or first brother of Reginald Lewis at the end of
the week he came back and you saw the newspaper, you saw the video,
he said where’s my money, the first thing she asked so
what is that again? Very conscious of finances, all right. It’s not like I earned this, I owe it,
therefore, where’s my money? And the mother said,
what do you mean your money? I delivered the paper,
I get the money, what? I’m going to sue you. Even at 12, he already knew his rights.>>[LAUGH]
>>And so, Butch heard this, and what’s this quarrel? Well, I delivered the papers, I get
the money and now he’s asking for it.>>No give it to him. And so the mother said,
Reg this is one lesson you should know, when you’re making a contract,
set the terms upfront, so at 12 he was already learning
how do you transact business. You don’t just assume that they
will pay you, set it up front, 12 years old, all those lessons. And also, anything that he has
set his mind to, he worked on it. During the summer, because his father,
his grandfather was a head waiter in the private club, okay? He would go there to work. And what was his father’s rule to him? Look. Anytime you want to eat something,
let me know, I’ll pay for it. No stealing. In other words, very high code of ethics. No lying, no stealing, no cheating. And do your work, you heard it also, do
your work, you won’t be in a bread line. So all of these values helped
him move along, move along. He did not have enough money, his parents did not have enough
money to send him to college. But he was a football player, what do you
call it now, when you throw the ball?>>The quarterback.>>[LAUGH] He was the quarterback
in Danbury High School, a public high school and
again this was the first. He worked his team so well. Because they were going to fight for the first time in the greater
game between polytechnic, which is all white, and
Danbury High School, which is all black. And so he worked his team very well,
and one of his teammates, I met him, Tiger Davidson,
when Reggie looked at us, in our eyes, we know he means business,
and we have to perform. And so he was already a leader. You will rise to the level of expectation. So for your professors,
for your parents, or for you yourself, set your standard high because
that’s where you are supposed to go. And in that game, in that first game,
they murdered the polytechnic. Why?
Because they worked hard. Mr. Lewis worked them hard. So all of these lessons are lesson
that enable him to move step by step. You always talk about
the billion dollar deal, but he said, I’m not an overnight success. He worked these things. The most important is that he
understood in order to be fighting in the arena of America,
you’ve got to have credentials. And so in 1965 when
the Rockefeller Foundation said, and Harvard Law School agreed,
that if there are no African Americans in corporate
America doing merger and acquisition. Then the economic gap
between the white and the black community will be further away. And so in 1965 all African American colleges and universities,
no historically black colleges and universities were asked,
send us your top four or five students to a summer program at
Harvard Law School for eight weeks. So that they will be
exposed to corporate law. They will be exposed to merger and
acquisition. And things that normally
a black lawyer do not go. Which is, there are black lawyers, but
they do domestic, nothing wrong with that. Divorce law, criminal law. But the real money is in corporate law. And so Mr. Lewis was not supposed to be
accepted because he was already senior. It was open only to sophomore and
junior, so that they could go back and talk about it.>>[COUGH]
>>But he knew, he knew. [LAUGH] He knew that
Harvard Law School was his key to this corporate world. And he hounded the professor everyday
to say, look, this is what I have done, llok, my grades here have improved and
everything. And so he was the last person, the fifth allowed by
Virginia State University to enter. And so he was at Harvard Law School. He said that in this eight
weeks I will stand on my head. What does that mean? I will just study the lesson well. I am going to really participate well. And be very, very alert in participating. That they will say, I’m good. And true enough, after eight weeks the
professor, Frank Sanders, told him, Reg, if you want to enter the class of 68
at Harvard Law School, you’re in. And that’s why he’s the only person in
the entire history of Harvard Law School who was accepted without applying, without
laying LSAT and without paying the fee.>>Wow.>>Yes.>>[LAUGH]
>>A big hand for Reginald Louis? [LAUGH]
>>[APPLAUSE]>>So I’m just giving you that, as he always said, there was a point
by a climbing crystal stairs, okay? The he was not something that jumped off,
suddenly a billion dollar. He worked on it every day,
he worked on it every year. He worked on it in every status in life. And so for you as students,
okay, you don’t know yet maybe where you’re going to go. Or maybe you do, okay? Just plan it, dream it. As Bobby Brown said, you dream. Because when I got married to him, we were in an apartment that’s
called railroad, in New York. Railroad means the bedroom, the entrance, the little room,
and the bathroom are all one. And so
he would take a shower while I’m cooking. I could see the bathroom, where it is. And when he comes out after a long, long
shower, he would shower maybe for an hour, he would come out and
say, Loida, $1 million. And then, as we go on,
maybe a third month, Loida, $3 million. When he comes out again, $5 million. It went all the way to $11 million. And then we change our apartment and
I could not see him anymore. So what does that mean? Early on he was already dreaming
how to earn $1 million, $3 million, $5 million, up to $11 million. And sure enough, 20 years later, he did. So for all of you, yes,
continue dreaming, but put steps on that and
don’t be afraid of failure. Failure should be another name for
success if you learn from it, okay? And Mr. Lewis had several failures. In fact,
he would always castigate himself, I should not have said it, this is
what I said, or this is what I did. And my part, as his wife,
was to just eliminate that doubt. Why? Because it happened already. Why, we like, that’s so
stupid, why would I say that? He was already so hard on himself. So I would say, no,
that was the right thing to do. He deserved it. Don’t worry about it. And so for you, women and men, okay? If you have a partner, be supportive,
cherish him, cherish her. Lift her up when she’s down,
because you are a team together. And that’s what I thought as his wife. We are a team, he’s going for the stars. So I’ll be behind him to help. Thank you.>>[APPLAUSE]
>>I want Mrs. Lewis to share with you and I never get
tired of hearing this story how they met. I mean we know the business side,
listen to this.>>Well, as you can see from my accent,
I was not born here. I was born in the Philippines. Yes, Filipino? Great, yes, yes, yes. Thank you, thank you. My father was a little bit like Mr. Lewis. He was all fun when he was 11 and
he was living, or his mother said, go with the rich uncle, which is
a customary when you go to your rich uncle so that you can continue
your high school studies. And in his mind he was
going to be a lawyer, but because he was poor,
he didn’t finish law. And so when he got married,
he had five children. I was the first daughter and he was the one who selected
that I will be the lawyer. I said, why? Maybe I guess he saw I’m a little bit
more talkative, aggressive, daring. So okay, so when I passed the BAR
in the Philippines he was so happy. He said, go around the world and then
come back here, we’ll start your career. What was history or me, again his dream,
he wanted to be a lawyer, he wanted to go to politics,
so I will be the one. In fact he already had it in his mind. So when I was seven years old
he built up a movie house in our province name Loida Theater. So that when I run for public office,
I already have name recognition. While I was in New York, so
I arrive in September, my sister who was studying at Columbia University will
graduate in May, so what will I do? Let me find a job, a village voice, civil right research council,
civil rights, I like that. So I said I am a law student. Not the lawyer, because otherwise,
you’re overqualified. No, and my boss was a Harvard Law
graduate African American. And so I said, well,
I’ll introduce my sister, Millie. My boss was fast. They were going out on
a date that weekend. And so, on Friday, he said Loida, do you
want a blind a double date your sister and me, and a classmate of mine and you. So I said, hmm blind date why not. He called up Reg Louis. Reg double date,
blind date, and if you are, if you know any lawyer working as
an associate in the big law firm. They work 12, 15, 16 hours a day
because as you work so you are billed. They bill you per minute. No, I cannot go, sorry. And then Brade Glover said,
that’s too bad, Reg, you know she comes from the Philippines. Wait, I’ve never dated an oriental before,
I’m coming. Again, for
you don’t be afraid of new things. And that first date you will
say did you fall in love? No I’m not the kind. I don’t fall in love easily. In fact in my mind I’m
not getting married. I’m going to follow my father’s ambition,
go to politics. Go all the way maybe to Senator. But I must say that first
meeting we talked non-stop. Okay, whatever I said,
he had something to say. Whatever he said, I had something to say. But there was one thing that impressed me. When I was going to talk about race
relations, he was African American, he brushed aside. I’m international. I’m International. In other words,
don’t deal with me as a black man. I am international. So in his mind, he’s already out there. And sure enough, 20 years later,
he was international. And that’s how we met. On a blind date.>>[APPLAUSE]
>>It’s interesting, because I did a little research
before we came here on Mercy. And Mercy was founded on a spiritual base. And I was looking at your mission
statement about innovation and motivated students and transforming lives. And the wonderful thing about it,
as you greeted us here, is that it’s not even about color. It’s not about socioeconomic level. It’s about what’s in here,
and your tenaciousness, which is your sign over here. And what you drive for,
what you strive for, how you drive. So if you take away even
one thing from today, take away that you make the difference. You make the difference. You have an opportunity to learn,
it’s an exceptional opportunity. And what Mrs. Lewis can share with you on
how he design the deal on his failures, and how he did a paradigm shift,
in his thinking of how he needed to change somethings to
make it work is just so important. And I would like for her to share
a little bit of that with you now.>>When he was a lawyer, well,
first he worked in a big law firm. But in the big law firm he worked so
many hours. And if they do not think that you’re going
to be partner, they tell you immediately. So in his second year he was already told
that they are, if he wants he would have a teaching job in Connecticut,
that they have a contact with. So very low expectations for him. He said no thank you, he was going
to establish his own law firm. And he was able to make an arrangement
with the foundation to fund the law firm for one or
two years as they build their business. And believe me, when the funding ended so he was on his own,
we would have very difficult time. I was already working with immigration,
so our division of labor is, he takes care of the big stuff,
I’ll take care of the household. And sometimes,
I would write a check to pay for our pork chops, to pay for
a chicken in a butcher shop. And then I would be called, Mrs. Lewis,
your check bounced, insufficient funds. So I would go again and either pay cash,
in other words there were hard times. Don’t think that just because you reach
the top, we did not have hard times. I had insufficient funds,
checks, this thick, because I would issue it and
I’d never balanced my checkbook. Don’t follow me, balance your checkbook. My point is that there were hard
times during the beginning. He was very successful as a lawyer. We had the brownstone in Manhattan,
our own home. We have a summer house in East Hampton. He was driving in Mercedes Benz but
in his mind this was not enough. He was going for merging an acquisition. And this is where I tell people,
you thinking of the billion dollar deal. The first deal he wanted to buy
3 million of Park Sausages. He had the money in his bag to
turn over to the lawyer and he was told sorry, sold already. They did not believe that he could do it. Second failure was a group of, I think it is TV station up in
upstate northeast, around 50. He was trying to get the money together,
sold, another failure. The third failure was a fleet
of company in San Francisco. In California for $8 million. He was able to get the financing together,
and then on the day of closing, the money was in the bank to
be transferred to the owner, the owner said to everybody,
I am not going to work for you. You want me to keep two books. One for IRS, and one for
ourselves, which was a lie, and naturally, when Mr.
Lewis heard it, curses. Bleep, what? You bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep,
bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep. You can see,
[LAUGH] each one cursing the other. The deal fell. 18 months of work down the drain,
and he said when he came home. He didn’t tell me, but he wrote about it. He was very close to a nervous breakdown,
but did that stop him? No. Did he say,
that fail because he was racist? It’s true, for me. The white man who owned the furniture
company didn’t want to work for him, but he didn’t say racism, inefficiency
of the lawyers in his law firm. He didn’t point finger to everyone,
that’s your fault. He point finger,
three fingers to himself, it’s my fault. Three times failure,
I’m doing something wrong. And so how do you solve that? Look at all the successful people who
have been doing leverage buy-out. Henry Kravis, Sir Jimmy Goldsmith,
Ron Perelman, so he studied, he read all their books like a novel,
and then he understood why he failed. He was doing everything himself. He was his own lawyer,
his law firm was his own lawyer. He was his own investment banker
to get the digits together. He was his own accountant
looking at their books. He was doing everything himself,
and nobody was in his corner. And so the next deal that came along,
a coal pattern company for $22 million,
he hired his old law firm, Paul Weiss, he hired Bart Bernstein as
investment banker, and he hired, I think its Dewitt and Deutsch,
so that they are invested in him. And so for all of you, if you
are ambitious, always establish ties, network because you never know when you
will need them, and that means you treat everybody with respect, whether they are
janitors, whether they are high up there, you treat them with respect and
with dignity, because you never know when you need them, and that’s
how he did his first leverage buy-out. 22 million, zero down payment. Well, not quite true. He had to give a down
payment of $1 million. We are successful, but
you don’t accumulate $1 million. You may have a house in the Hamptons and
all that, you have to sell it all to get one million, and how did he do it,
he went to his banker J.P. Morgan, and he said, I need this much money as down
payment, and Bob Winters said, all right, Reg, you have been coming here for
the past ten years. Each year,
you would show me your business plan, and every year you come back,
you exceed your business plan. The first year, second year,
third year, ten years, because, you have a track record of honesty,
capability, integrity, earned result. I’ll lend it to you. But how will you pay me? Of course, he knew how to pay,
because if you are the sponsor, you put the deal together, and you have
a contract, you get the sponsor fee, and too sure enough, the deal closed,
in 21 days he paid back J.P. Morgan. What. So again, lesson for you, if you’re in
business, your contacts, you never know when you will need them, and have them,
their calling cards, have a notebook, write down where you met them, because
again, you cannot do it by yourself. You’ll always need people around you. You’ll always need those who
will help you along the way if you want to be successful.>>To whom much is given,
much is expected. Why don’t you share with them
the wonderful accomplishments and philanthrope that you’ve already given.>>Okay, when we got married, on our
first Christmas, I saw him write a check. Just $10 for a church, St. Edwards. So he had a habit, already, of giving,
and that came, again, from his family. His mother, his grandparents, they would always be
expected to be helping other people. So when he was able to afford it,
he gave Harvard Law School the largest donation of anyone in
Harvard Law Schools history, $3 million. They were very happy, they named Reginald F Lewis
International Law Center after him. Okay, so that’s one. Second, before he died he said,
I want $5 million for an African American museum of history and
culture. He died in 1993. In 2002, there was a newspaper
item in Baltimore saying that the Legislature of Maryland
allocated $22 million, no, sorry, $32 million to build the Museum
of African American History and Culture, same name that he wrote down. So, Beverly Cooper,
his aunt who was running the foundation, Reginald Lewis Foundation asked them,
well, Mr. Lewis allocated 5 million for that. What do we get? Well, for 5 million we will
name the museum after him. Even in death, a leverage buyout. For 5 million,
a 32 million building was named after him. So, we have continued this gift giving. We have giving also to Virginia
State University from his foundation 1.5 million, and they named
the college of business after him. So what am I saying? For you, whether you say,
I’ll wait until I’m successful, no, give the habit of giving, because
God is never outdone in generosity. In fact, according to Templeton,
of Templeton Funds, the best investment is tithing. What does that mean? 10% of your income is not yours. It belongs to God. I have tried that, myself. So I’m sharing that with you,
don’t be afraid to give, even if you have have little, just 10%. Write it to your church,
write to your pastor, write it to something that
you are interested in, because whatever we have,
10%is not ours belongs to God.>>I have a question for you myself, which is, he was in this world of firsts. He had the largest
African American owned company. He did the largest buy-out. Did he feel the weight of history? Did he understand himself as a pioneer? And did that,
was he ever frightened about that? Was he excited about it? I’m just sort of interested in
whatever he may have shared with you.>>He always says performance and I’m not going to do this so
that I will have my name on the paper. I have to do this because I have to do it. This is my goal. But, what I am happy about is that
in the last days of his life, when he was stricken with brain cancer,
and we were watching the inauguration
of President Clinton 1993. And he said, I could have been a politician and
I said, no darling. Bill Clinton had planned to be
a politician from the start. You have planned to be in business. You have planned to be on the top of your game in corporate law so
you’ve got there and he told me, he nodded his head and said yes, it’s
been quite a ride and I disproved a lie. For me, what does that mean? That at the back of his mind he wanted to
disprove the lie that a person of color, a black man cannot go to the very
top of corporate America. And so,
your question was he thinking of this and that, it wasn’t really to put a name
to be first here first there. But at the back of his mind it
is to fight against racism and to show the whole world that
if you are given opportunity, if you have a dream,
you can accomplish it in America. I said he was a quarterback, so he received a full scholarship at Virginia
State University in Petersburg, Virginia. But on the first year,
somebody hit him on the shoulder and, he could not play football anymore, and so he said okay, no more scholarship,
I’m going to shift to academics. And I will work full time. Full time meaning to say,
he studied Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Tuesday Thursday Saturday and
Sunday, he is out working. He became a manager of a bowling alley. In another year he was a manager,
he was helping photographer go get the contract in elementary school, high school where the photographer
will take pictures, the parents will pay and
so he was the salesman. He was so good that the photographer
offered him partnership, but he said no,
I have other dreams for myself. So he was able to finish, liberal
arts major in political science and in economics in four years
because he was very careful that every year he passed and
that every year his tuition is paid. He always was a family man, but it didn’t
mean that he did not go out and hustle. As a lawyer, you have to hustle. So he was out many times. He was out going to meetings, going to parties, going to a bar. Hustling but at the same time he
also knew that family is important. And so when he lost the deal
of the furniture company, because he was told that he was going,
that’s really defamation. So his lawyer the next day called him up
Reg we should sue him for defamation. All right, sue him. And therefore, they settled. The money we got, that’s how we
bought our East Hampton home. So every Friday, Saturday, Sunday,
we would be in East Hampton, okay? And that’s where he recuperated,
that’s the balance that we had. Monday through Thursday, out working. Friday, Saturday, Sunday we were together. We had family time. And so that’s how he recuperated. Because you do need time
to smell the roses. And that’s how we managed. He did not only enjoy the academic
life in his second year. Okay, first year was all football. And then when he lost his scholarship,
he went into academics, so that at the end he was
already on the Dean’s list. So in other words, you fail here,
you move another way. So he was in the frat. His fraternity, he became the head of that
fraternity council of all fraternities. He was also, he’s a player if
you know what that means, okay? So he dated, he would have a party for
the fraternity, he would see to it that there were more women than the fraternity
brothers, so they have their pick. So yes he had fun at Virginia State. But he never lost his goal
to finish in four years. You cannot afford fifth year, that
means more money, finish in four years. So every semester I think or ever, he would be on the finance
office to see how much they owe. So again for you, no finances. Even when we got married,
he would always have assets and liabilities written down on yellow pad. How much money he has in the bank,
how much he’s saving. How much he’s investing,
how much is assets and liabilities, income and expenses? Always, from the time I knew him,
he was already doing that. And of course, as times goes by, the
assets and liabilities became bigger, but it was a habit that he had even before. You never know whom you will need. When he was still a practicing lawyer,
okay and he was trying to but business, he was introduced by one
of his friends to Mike Milken. At that time Mike Milkin was
a big Investment banker at Drexel Bernham Lambert. And, in 1980s,
the leveraged buyout was rampant. What does that mean? You borrow almost all the money to buy
a company, and Mike Milein was doing that. He was the investment banker, he doesn’t buy it, he’s the investment
banker raising the money to buy Nabisco. Okay. To buy almost all companies
were being bought by people who are not in the business, but
who have contact with Mike Milken. And he would raise the money from
savings and loan to buy businesses. That was the 1980s. With very little money you can buy it. And so, your question was,
how did he, what was the question? How did he go from?>>Yeah,
what was your reaction to the people who>>My reaction. As I said, it’s very daunting,
okay, for me, because he just sold a $65 million,
he just sold a business for $65 million and therefore,
he started buying art and all that. And he wanted to buy this
big house in the Hampton’s. It’s so big! We didn’t have maids, but
in that big house, you need a chef. You need somebody to clean the house and
the. So for me it was a little daunting. But I went along,
that was his dream, I went along. Okay, so adjusting to new circumstances,
you go along. If you know both of you have
the same dream go along. Okay, adjust.>>Okay. I have another question. The dean of our business school is
fond of telling all of our students to begin with the end in mind. And I’m sure when you hear his story, there are many dreams in this room
of following the path he took and becoming a billion
dollar entrepreneur. And yet in the world today, for
instance, many startups fail. So there’s this certain tension between
what you might want and how you get there. I wonder if you have any advice for our students about how you plot the path
forward when you do have the end in mind?>>All right,
he said don’t start a business. Buy one. Why, because 90% of start-ups fail. So why are you going to
put yourself in the 10%? How sure are you that you will
not be part of the 90% that fail? You buy a business. And whatever business it is,
you must have a plan to make it better. His first business that he succeeded
was McCall Pattern Company. Do women still sow? No. The same McCall Pattern Company
was going down. But in his mind, he knew how to make
it efficient and more successful and indeed he asked, McCall Pattern is paper. What do you do with paper? Greeting cards? So he started a greeting card segment and
very successful because paper is one set one and
you sent us a greeting card for $3. What else? It’s paper. What do you do it paper? Print something. And sewing is dresses, how about knitting? So they started another line of
business where you print how to knit or knitting patterns. And McCall Pattern Company had
the most successful profitable year in its 113 years of history. So what do I tell you? It starts small, it starts on
something that’s already there. If you’re going to start a business,
look at other businesses that is out there that you’re interested in, and maybe be
employed there to learn the business. And who knows, after maybe five years, the owner is 65-years-old he
might sell you the business. On credit. So I’m saying don’t start a business. If you want to, do that, but
10% fail so why will you go there? Look for a business that you like,
and that’s where you start. And then learn from your
banker how to borrow money. They say there are five Cs. Character, capacity, culpability. I don’t know the other two. But when you have a bank
get to know who it is. Get to know the business section
of that bank because it’s your credibility,
when you’re ready to go into business. When they lend you money, that’s the hardest thing how to
raise money to buy your business.>>Did I answer your question?>>Yes, you did, thank you. So the times are up there. We have a precious few
more minutes of Mrs. Lewis’ time and some food for
everybody in the back of the room. Marilyn, thank you, thank you, thank you. Loita thank you so much.>>May I just say the three
things the secret of success.>>Okay I’m always asked so
this is my own. Mr. Lewis I have told you keep going and
all that. But I tell the young people,
there are three secrets of success. First is goal setting. Bobby had already said it,
Professor Brown had said it. Dream, goal, set your goal, for this year. What’s your goal from February
to December, what’s your goal? And that’s your goal personally,
your goal physically, your health. Your goal financially. How much money do you want to earn and
your goal spiritually. Your connection to God. Set your goal. The second one is obedience,
the code of ethics. Do what’s right. Don’t do what’s wrong because within you,
you know what’s right and what’s wrong. Why? Because if you do a shortcut
because it’s convenient or you break some rules nobody knows. Eventually it will catch up on you. And what was so easy will become hard. And what was so hard because you’re
following the rules, you’re following the law, you’re paying your income
tax it will eventually become easy. So obey. Obey a code of ethics. And the last one is determination. Determination to get there
where you have planned. You may not always get there this way or
that way, okay, so you may have to veer. Get the opportunity, but be determined
that you are going to succeed. And so what’s that? Goal is G. Obedience is O. Determination is the D. That spells G-O-D, God. Why? Because I believe with God
everything is possible, with God nothing is impossible, and
I have my own life to prove that. Thank you.>>[APPLAUSE]

43 thoughts on “Reginald F. Lewis–America’s First Black Billion Dollar Businessman”

  1. I also just finished reading the book. Must read for all African Americans especially business and law school students. parents should add this book to their library and make sure their children read it. We need more of you not just looking for a position in the corporate world but shaking up that world as Mr.Lewis did and taking kind of success to the next level.

  2. His story is so remarkable, it's so sad that ppl, especially the youth, r no longer inspired to read as in the past bc of the rise of social media! SIP REGINALD LEWIS

  3. ANY Successful man on the lines like Mr. Cockran (died of brain cancer), or Mr. Lewis (died of brain cancer), its no coincidence, you already know Caucasians Killed them. But they can't figure out how to kill Farrakhan, but they almost did, but Farrakhan beat his cancer, thank God!

  4. The problem with successful Black men is you never see them end up or take a Black woman with them. They usually die and leave the money to other races except the Black race. These women then take their money and spend it in their races which makes sense. We’re supposed to look out for our own people. Black men regardless of how successful they are can’t seem to learn that lesson or find a Black woman to give a good life to. If he had married a Black woman I’m sure she would have to have a degree and a job. I didn’t hear his wife say she ever finished college. All he wanted her to do is be a house wife. Even after slavery Booker T. Washington married a white woman. Frederick Douglas married a white woman. It’s very hard for me to wrap my mind around this. Even in the Bible God punished the men in Israel that married what he called strange flesh. God said it’s an abomination to him for Israelite men to marry them. These men brought a curse on Israel and God made them send these women away with children they had by them. The goal of Black men is to get enough money to buy them a white women or pale flesh woman. These women wouldn’t give them a second look without the money. Maybe they bought into this white Jesus coming to save them so he wouldn’t mind them having one of his women. Black people are doomed in Christianity believing in this lie about a white savior coming to save them. Don’t give no church in Christianity or any other religion ten percent of your money. That’s no where in the Bible. Finally this woman is giving advice on something she never did herself.

  5. Great piece. But one correction to her story. My uncle James McPherson was also accepted into Harvard Law school without taking the LSAT or paying a fee too. He was Reginald Lewis's roommate. He graduated undergrad Morris Brown. Went on to win a Pulitzer for nonfiction. First African American ever. However, he never practiced law. Also for you conspiracy theorists commenting here, I can tell you in this case you are not all the way wrong.

  6. Blackman speak truth to power always end up dead especially speaking about being a black entrepreneur ,,, they want you to speak about working for them and putting up with their racist prejudice ways against us that will never change

  7. Stupid loida lewis.what happened to your philipines country.why you connot even the poor people ashamed of you.

  8. Thanks for this post! He was that dude and his wife is such a pleasure. This has really got me thinking of getting my dream of big multi-business owner in motion

  9. RIP Reggy Lewis was a Great and, International Business Man,🔥🔥🔥💯💯💯❤️❤️❤️

  10. When I was a young man I wrote a letter to RL and he actually wrote me back about succeeding. I was in the Marine Corps in the 80's looking for opportunities after the war. I read his book many years later. he and T. Boone Pickens are the only ones who wrote me. He is my hero in business and always will be.

  11. That professor sitting with this lady is obnoxious, too over mannered and too affected… her body and hand mannerisms are just plain obnoxious. Her examples of famous rich people are all in the entertainment business, I mean he puts Brianna and Biancé and P-Ditty in the same sentence and category as this great man… those are singers!! What the hell is wrong with this lady to think those men are his equal. Even today we got way too may more people in the entertainment and sports field than in industry at hat level, she is wrong to put them in the same category, "professor"!!

    Mr. Reginald Lewis is and will be a freaking awesome act to follow. Great inspiration.

  12. Does anyone here know if Lewis ever tried to make deals that DIDN'T work out, that "failed"?? Did he ever tried to buy or acquire a company and didn't succeed?? 

    I thought he only tasted success —but I am glad to hear he also failed some, glad too he never stopped.

    Even in his marriage he chose well, he chose a woman who bought into HIS dream and character, doesn't seem like she even ever tried to change him, and she was all the way behind him in all areas, it seems. 
    I bet you all that this lady knows more about business than all the business-school students or "professionals" in the audience, JUST BY BEING AROUND HIM, by listening daily to his talk or way of thinking about negotiations or deals.

  13. How many of these people will follow this because he was a black man whom was successful, rather than the fact they want a billion dollars !

  14. Multi station smoke detector commercial YouTube video link saving lives energy environments commercial and residential applications smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Patrick3jordan

  15. That guy mr Lewis was truely a determined man, strong values & ethics. But hats off to a wonderful, intelligent & dedicated wife in Lolida his wife. Many women in your shoes Lolida would have failed, you did not…well done girl, you got guts

  16. There are so many powerful business people that could have been named here. We are a brilliant people, we are so much more than entertainers. Susanne Shanks ( 2 trillion dollar woman) Ursula Burns (CEO of Xerox) Don Thompson (CEO of McDonald's), Ken Chenault (CEO of American Express) Chris Garner (Multi-Millionaire Trader) Mellody Hobson (Brilliant Financier) Robert Mufune (Brilliant Entrepreneur) Lauren Simmons (Equity Trader). These are just a select few great achievers, but if I did an extended list, it would fill pages. There are soooooooooooooo many brilliant black inventors and entrepreneurs.. Your brain is brilliant and without prejudice, it only works if you work it. Before I leave this list, I must include the brilliant multi-talented Honorable HUD Secretary Dr.Ben Carson. Reginald Lewis is my hero from long back, reading his book emboldened me to raise my prices and increase my bottom line!!!!!!!!!! Thanks Loida for sharing him with a new generation

  17. Loida, is such a beautiful wise woman. If you are an ambitious man, you need an amazing woman like Loida by your side !!!!

  18. I am a proud Lewis and a Clark. Loida's precious memories are golden. She is dropping jewels on us. How to fund, how to self-educate and have a code of ethics FOR LIFE! You do not need a greedy corporation in the US or else where to behave professionally. Your full-time job before another persons company is your company, yourself…use you! Remain professional regardless of the circumstances. When we do our best everyday for ourselves it really does not matter what anyone else thinks. Represent your wonderful ancestry and be a reflection of the great people you come from.

  19. I believe cell phones caused his brain cancer. He was among the first using that technology. He flew in those airplanes using those cell phones. That is what I believe. He was too young and rich to die like that. An unforgettable read.

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