Peter B. Lewis
Peter B. Lewis, born November 11, 1933 in Cleveland, Ohio, is the Chairman of Progressive Corporation, of which he acquired control in 1965 in an early leveraged buyout. At that time, the small insurance company with $6 million in revenues specialized in insuring those drivers who had difficulty finding auto insurance. For 42 years since, 35 as CEO, Lewis has overseen the transformation of the 100 employee company into a full-line auto insurer with 27,000 employees and annual sales of $14 billion. Today Progressive is the nation’s third largest auto insurer.
Much of Progressive’s success derives from Lewis’ unique vision that the Mission of an auto insurer is to reduce the human trauma and economic costs of auto accidents in cost effective and profitable ways and his clarity about the Core Values governing his and Progressive’s behavior. Lewis demands and pays for excellent performance, and separates the people who don’t perform. Progressive revolutionized the staid auto insurance industry with 24-hour immediate response on claims and all service, mobile claim adjusters dispatched directly to accident scenes, offering consumers free comparative rates from other auto insurers via its highly acclaimed website, progressive.com. and its 800 telephone number. Progressive is the only public company releasing complete monthly financial results.
Lewis, retired since 2000, invests through his philanthropy in people with purposes he shares and the management ability to achieve those purposes. He supports risk takers who break new ground and show results. Lewis has challenged many of the nonprofit organizations he supports to improve their management and finances. In 2001, Lewis, who had contributed $36 million to construct a Frank Gehry designed building for Case Western Reserve University’s School of Management, began a boycott of all Cleveland charities, demanding replacement of the Trustees responsible for mismanaging the University. As Chairman of the Board of the Guggenheim Museum, Lewis demanded in 2002 that the institution cut its spending and operate on a sound financial basis. After ten years on the Guggenheim’s Board and contributing more than $77 million to the institution, he resigned from the Board because of differences over management quality and strategic direction. Lewis serves on the Board of Princeton University, his alma mater (Class of 1955), where he is its largest ever contributor (over $220 million), including the largest gift in Princeton’s history ($101 million) to expand its programs in the creative and performing arts. Lewis’ other gifts to Princeton include $60 million for a Gehry designed science library and an endowment for the Lewis/Sigler Genomics Institute. His main challenge to Princeton is to improve on its already top-ranked excellence.
Lewis believes deeply in the value of individual freedom and tries to foster necessary governmental and social change. He supports the American Civil Liberties Union and helped finance the beginnings of America Coming Together, MoveOn.org, Media Matters, the Center for American Progress and the Marijuana Policy Project, as well as other progressive efforts.
Lewis is an avid lover of sports, as both participant and fan. With homes in Miami, Cleveland, New York, and Aspen, he now travels the world on his Motor/Yacht, “Lone Ranger.”. He is amicably divorced from Toby Devan Lewis, is the father of three and grandfather of three.
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