Glucksman, Lewis (1925–2006), philanthropist and businessman, was born 22 December 1925 in New York, the second of three children of Jack Glucksman, owner of a factory that manufactured table lamps, and his wife Zipporah. His parents were second-generation Hungarian Jews. Raised in Manhattan's Upper West Side, he was educated at De Witt Clinton high school before entering the University of Indiana in 1941 and transferring to the College of William and Mary a year later. On his seventeenth birthday he lied about his age in order to enlist in the US Navy and served in the Atlantic on anti-submarine patrols. This experience stimulated a lifelong interest in nautical activities, particularly fishing and yachting, and also with Ireland, where he spent most of his shore leave. As an avid reader, he became fascinated with Irish literature, having a particular admiration for the works of George Moore (qv). After the war, he returned periodically to Ireland, visiting locales where his favourite authors lived and wrote.
He was discharged from the navy as a lieutenant in 1946, going on to graduate from William and Mary with a degree in liberal arts and accounting (1947). He then worked in a series of job on Wall Street, and enrolled in night courses at the business school of New York University (NYU), graduating with an MBA in finance (1951). During spells at Wall Street investment banks A. G. Becker (1952–4, 1958–63) and L. F. Rothschild (1954–8), he acquired an expertise in trading short-term corporate bonds (known as commercial paper). In 1963 he joined Lehman Brothers in order to establish its commercial paper function. There, he became a partner in 1967, and was elevated to the board in 1971.
He successfully developed Lehman Commercial Paper Inc. as a substantial profit-earner, becoming widely lauded as one of Wall Street's most skilled and innovative traders. An unkempt, heavy-set man, he possessed a volatile temperament, frequently hurling objects across the room and once ripping his shirt in rage. Underlying this crude exterior lurked an intellect of substance, enabling him to confound his hard-earned caricature by knowledgeably discussing subjects such as Marxism and contemporary literature. Cultivating a raw, pressure-cooker atmosphere on his trading floors – covering up the windows in order to create a casino-style ambience – and alternately and unpredictably either raging at or displaying disproportionate consideration towards his subordinates, he moulded a disciplined, ferociously hard-working, and aggressively entrepreneurial unit.
His contempt for the genteel hypocrisies that had long made Wall Street the preserve of a self-satisfied, self-perpetuating, socially elitist clique led him to elevate gratuitous rudeness into a point of high principle. This was part of a siege mentality that he instilled in his division, which was institutionally and culturally distinct from the rest of a firm largely oriented toward investment banking, and which contemptuously disregarded external efforts to rein in risk-taking. Although deregulation and market forces were dissolving the differences between bankers and traders, the former continued to disdain the latter as boorish and dangerously reckless, while the traders reciprocated by branding their banking colleagues as work-shy snobs. Formerly marginal, traders were becoming increasingly important revenue-earners as the evolution of the financial industry eroded the importance of personal relationships and placed an emphasis on quick-fire, intuitive transacting. Glucksman's power within Lehman Brothers grew in tandem with the ever increasing profits registered by his traders: he became chief operating officer in 1980, president in 1981, and joint chief executive, along with Pete Peterson, in 1983.
By 1983 the traders were bringing in 66 per cent of Lehman's profits, but the bankers, comprising a comfortable majority of the partnership, continued to enjoy the lion's share of the keenly coveted annual bonuses. Losing patience with this dispensation, in mid 1983 Glucksman demanded and ultimately extracted Peterson's resignation by offering him a choice between a damaging power struggle and a generous financial settlement. Once in situ as sole chief executive, he rapidly alienated most of the partners by favouring his cronies in the distribution of executive positions, bonuses, and Lehman shareholdings. Peterson's ability to mediate between the traders and bankers had held Lehman together, but his removal sparked a free-for-all. A number of partners left, shrinking Lehman's already inadequate capital base. Those that remained began to calculate the potential windfall from forcing the bank's sale. Further undermining Lehman's capital sustainability and his personal credibility, Glucksman's traders suddenly suffered substantial losses (possibly because they took more risks in trying to shore up the firm's capital position).
In January 1984 the Lehman's board compelled Glucksman to begin exploratory negotiations for selling Lehman. Having failed to settle into the role he had long coveted, Glucksman complied. In the event, news of Lehman's intentions leaked out, significantly depressing the price, and a relatively paltry $380 million tag was agreed with American Express in May 1984. Glucksman personally gained some $15.6 million from the buy-out and agreed not to join a major Wall Street investment bank for four years. His disciple Richard Fuld continued at Lehman, leading the trading house back into independence in 1993 and ultimately into one of the most infamous bankruptcies in history in 2008.
During the ensuing hiatus, Glucksman established his own advisory firm and also lectured at the NYU graduate school of business. When his non-compete agreement with American Express expired in autumn 1988, he joined Smith Barney, a component of the Primerica (later Citibank) group, as executive vice-chairman, and assisted the new chief executive, Frank Zarb, in transforming a rather old-fashioned trading house: on one occasion Glucksman berated the entire trading floor over the intercom for their indolence. Zarb and Glucksman managed the brokerage successfully until 1993, when they were unceremoniously kicked upstairs by the Primerica chief, Sandy Weill. Thereafter Glucksman continued at Smith Barney in a non-executive capacity before retiring in 1999.
His first marriage, to Inez Salinger, having collapsed in the 1970s (they had two daughters), he met in 1983 and later married Loretta Brennan. She was third-generation Irish-American, but had never visited Ireland. In time, Glucksman's eagerness to help her renew her ethnic roots would intensify his own long-standing interest in Ireland. His philanthropic work in education began with his alma mater at NYU, where he was a trustee and funded the Lewis Glucksman Institute of Research in Securities Markets and the creation of various fellowships. Following his $1 million donation, the Glucksman Ireland House – an institute of Irish studies at NYU – opened in 1993.
As part of his Glucksman House initiative, he had in 1987 conducted a tour of most of the Irish universities seeking to instigate exchanges with NYU. While doing so, he was impressed by the University of Limerick (UL) and its president Ed Walsh, who later persuaded him to become a major donor, and first a member, and then, in 1994, chairman of the UL Foundation. (Some Irish-American members of the UL Foundation were quietly discomfited at having a Jew as their chairman.) Contrary to Glucksman's fearsome reputation, Walsh found it relatively easy to work with him, Glucksman having mellowed with age. In 1990 Glucksman bought Ballyneale House and stud, near Ballingarry, Co. Limerick, which he visited some twenty times per year, and from where he could be close to the UL campus. Despite the wet weather, he found Irish life to be therapeutic and far cheaper than consulting a psychiatrist. It also proved an ideal outlet for his passion for fishing and yachting.
In 1992 he contributed $1.2 million towards founding a chair of contemporary literature in UL, and enjoyed interacting with the distinguished literary figures who served as visiting Glucksman professors, including Seamus Heaney (b. 1939) and Frank McCourt (1930–2009). In 1994 he agreed to donate $3 million for the building of a library and concert hall for UL, and a year later he contributed toward the construction of student residences. When local Fianna Fáil interests sought to have Walsh, who intended retiring as president of UL in 1998, succeeded by a political appointee, Glucksman ensured the success of Walsh's opposition to this move by threatening to withdraw his patronage.
Not confining his generosity to UL, he also contributed towards TCD's Ussher Library, the funding of a chair in Jewish studies in TCD, and TCD's acquisition of a collection of French satirical cartoons from the Napoleonic era and of the correspondence of Barbara Bray (1924–2010) with Samuel Beckett (qv). Other Irish beneficiaries included the Royal Irish Academy of Music, the National Gallery of Ireland, the Abbey and Gate theatres, and the Wexford Opera Festival. Elsewhere, the University of Aberdeen received funding for a chair in Irish and Scottish studies. Glucksman was assisted and guided in dispensing his charity by his wife.
In 1998 he sold Ballyneale House, and purchased and expensively renovated East Grove House – considered one of Ireland's most picturesque period residences – on Great Island in Cork harbour near Cobh. This relocation facilitated his pursuit of yachting, and also brought him into contact with UCC. He became chairman of the UCC Foundation and made a significant contribution towards the founding of UCC's Glucksman Art Gallery on the college grounds, and the Glucksman Marine Centre at Haulbowline to house the university's coastal and marine resources centre.
From the mid 1990s, his largesse was distributed through the medium of the American Ireland Fund, of which he was a major patron. In 1993 Tony O'Reilly, whom Glucksman knew through business contacts, invited Glucksman's wife Loretta to join the American Ireland Fund, an organisation established by O'Reilly to raise money from Irish-Americans to promote peace, community, development, education, and culture in Ireland, north and south. Loretta Brennan Glucksman served as a successful and energetic chairwoman of the fund from 1995. Overcoming the lack of a strong philanthropic tradition among Irish-Americans, she skilfully utilised her husband's business connections and capitalised on the optimism engendered by the progress towards a political resolution in Northern Ireland. Under her direction, the fund established two non-denominational schools in Northern Ireland.
During the 1990s and 2000s, Lewis Glucksman's munificence towards Ireland was only bettered by that of the Irish-American businessman Chuck Feeney, with whom he cooperated in various UL projects. The two men were rather similar personalities, and would hold a private contest at foundation gatherings to see which of them could leave first with good grace. In recognition of his generosity, the Irish government appointed Glucksman to the board of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (May–November 1997) and to the advisory committee of the National Treasury Management Agency. He also sat on the boards of Fitzwilton and Waterford Wedgwood, both O'Reilly-controlled companies, and participated in the consortium that took Fitzwilton into private ownership. He received a doctorate of laws from TCD (1999) and from the NUI (2002). Similarly, his wife received an honorary doctorate from the NUI (2007), and sat inter alia on the boards of the IDA, Cork Airport Authority, the NGI, the NCH, the NLI, TCD, UCC, the RCSI, and the Abbey theatre.
Glucksman was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 and given six months to live, but survived another six years before dying at his home in Co. Cork on 5 July 2006. Thereafter, his widow continued his charitable work under the aegis of the American Ireland Fund.