Lewis B. Cullman, an investment banker and arts patron who, with his second wife, Dorothy, gave hundreds of millions to cultural and educational institutions in New York City over many years and helped charities raise millions more, died Friday in Stamford, Connecticut. He was 100.
His death, at Stamford Hospital, was confirmed by his current wife, Louise Hirschfeld Cullman. He had homes in nearby Darien, Connecticut, and Manhattan.
The scion of a family that owned the Benson & Hedges and Philip Morris tobacco companies, Cullman was born into wealth, made fortunes in business and on Wall Street, and sat on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Botanical Garden and many hospitals, universities and corporations.
Jauntily dressed in colorful shirts and ties, Cullman was a lively presence in board rooms and, with Dorothy Cullman, cut a figure of warm fellowship at charity balls and fundraisers. While his father and two of his brothers built tobacco empires, Cullman made most of his millions in a company that produced and sold desk calendars and appointment books.
As a young man, Cullman recalled in an interview for this obituary in 2017: “I just wanted to be a weatherman. I thought it was an absolutely fascinating subject.”
His graduate studies in meteorology at New York University were cut short by World War II. In the Navy, he forecast storms for U.S. forces in the Atlantic and later in the Mediterranean from a base in French Morocco. After the war, he founded a private weather-forecasting service in Boston, and for three years he alerted client cities and towns in New England when to roll out their snow plows.
But family business beckoned. His father, Joseph F. Cullman Jr., had bought Benson & Hedges in 1941 and merged it in the 1950s with Philip Morris.