Non-Executive Chairman of the Board of The Progressive Corporation since March 2003; Executive Chairman of the Board prior to March 2003.
Peter B. Lewis turned the 100-employee insurance firm co-founded by his father into one of the nation’s largest auto insurance companies, the Progressive Corporation, by insuring high-risk drivers and high-end sports cars, and became an outspoken and sometimes quarrelsome supporter of liberal causes and the arts.
Peter Benjamin Lewis was born in Cleveland on Nov. 11, 1933, the son of Joseph Lewis, who co-founded the Progressive Mutual Insurance Company with Jack Green, and the former Helen Rosenfeld. He attended Princeton University and then joined his father’s company. He became chief executive in 1965 and retired in 2000.
For years, Mr. Lewis was the biggest individual patron of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, donating almost $77 million over 11 years. But in 2005, he resigned as chairman of the museum’s board and withdrew his financial support because he wanted the museum to focus on New York rather than expanding abroad.
Before that, he staged a yearlong boycott of cultural and charitable organizations in Cleveland, where Progressive is based, after a dispute with the board of Case Western Reserve University. Mr. Lewis had agreed to pay for a Frank Gehry-designed building on campus, but he was frustrated when the costs of the project ballooned and he wanted the board to resign.
The building, notable for its flowing sheets of steel and glass, ended up being built with $36.9 million in donations from Mr. Lewis and bears his name.
Over the years, Mr. Lewis donated more than $220 million to Princeton University, his alma mater, and he served on its board until last June.
Mr. Lewis contributed millions of dollars to Democratic campaigns, but he grew frustrated after John Kerry lost his presidential bid in 2004. He had given more than $20 million to Democratic-oriented groups that year.
After that, he turned his attention to financing groups that would set up a permanent infrastructure for Democrats, including the Center for American Progress and Media Matters for America.
Mr. Lewis’s first marriage, to the former Toby Devan, ended in divorce in 1981.
Survivors include his wife, Janet Rosel Lewis; three children from his first marriage, Ivy, Jonathan and Adam Lewis; a brother, Daniel; and five grandchildren.
In 2012, Mr. Lewis signed the Giving Pledge, a campaign organized by Bill Gates and Warren E. Buffett to get the world’s richest people to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.more » « less