Daniel K. Ludwig

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Daniel Keith Ludwig
Daniel K. Ludwig.jpg
Born (1897-06-24)June 24, 1897
South Haven, Michigan, U.S.
Died August 27, 1992(1992-08-27) (aged 95)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart failure
Residence Park Cinq, Manhattan, New York
Occupation Global business magnate
Known for Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Jari project
Board member of
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, National Bulk Carriers, American-Hawaiian Steamship Company, Princess International Hotels, Exportadora de Sal, SA, Citricos de Chiriqui, SA, United Pocahontas Coal Company, European-American Securities Inc., Southwest Savings and Loan Association,
Spouse(s) 1) Gladys Madeline Jones
2) Gertrude Virginia Higgins (1897–1993)
Children Patricia Margaret
Parents Daniel F. Ludwig (1873–1960) & Flora Belle Ludwig (1875–1961)

Daniel Keith Ludwig (June 24, 1897 – August 27, 1992) was a United States shipping magnate and billionaire. Even though he was one of the wealthiest men of his day, with operations spanning 23 countries,[1] his name was little known. Throughout his business life, he maintained a low profile and ceased speaking to the press in the 1950s.

Ludwig has the distinction of being #1 on the first Forbes 400 Richest Americans list published in 1982.


Ludwig's parents were Daniel F. Ludwig (1873–1960), nicknamed "Lud", and Flora Belle Ludwig (1875–1961). They separated when young Daniel was 15, and he was taken, by his father, to Port Arthur, Texas to live with an uncle and aunt. Ludwig's mother was left alone in South Haven without any means of support and her fate is unknown.

Ludwig's first venture into shipping was at the age of 9, when he salvaged a 26-foot (8 m) boat. He left school at the end of eighth grade to work in various shipping related jobs, directly learning such trades as machinist, marine engineer, and ship handler. In Port Arthur, he sold supplies to sailing ships and steamers. He returned to Michigan to take a job at a marine engine plant, which sent him to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Early business ventures[edit]

At 19, Ludwig established himself in the shipping business when he began transporting molasses around the Great Lakes. There are rumors of his engaging in rum running during prohibition.

In the 1930s, he developed a novel approach to financing further expansion, by borrowing the construction cost of tankers and using pre-agreed charters as collateral. His National Bulk Carriers became one of the largest American shipping companies, and he eventually owned about 60 vessels. His shipyards used welding instead of riveting, which saved time during World War II, when there was huge demand for new ships. After the war, his ships transported oil around the world and he pioneered the construction and use of the new oil supertankers in the 1950s.

Ludwig diversified into an oil refinery, banking, cattle ranching, insurance, and real estate. He invested in various mining and exploration projects in Americas, Africa, Australia and the Middle East. He created a chain of luxury hotels in Mexico, Bermuda and the Bahamas, and developed Westlake Village, California.

In 1971, using his foreign assets, Ludwig founded the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Switzerland, which became his primary interest in old age. Since his death, it has distributed over a billion dollars around the world for cancer research.[2][3]

Upon Ludwig's death and under the terms of his will, Ludwig Centers were established in 2006 at six United States research institutions (Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Stanford University and the University of Chicago). To date, they have received US$900 million from the Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Fund for Cancer Research.[4] The Centers operate independently of the Ludwig Institute, but by the terms of the grant their directors and scientists are to work collaboratively with each other and with the Institute.

Personal life[edit]

Daniel K. Ludwig was married twice. His first marriage, to Gladys Madeline Ludwig (1904–1978), in Florida on October 29, 1928, produced a daughter, Patricia Margaret, born on October 8, 1936. They divorced in April 1937. However, Ludwig was estranged from his wife at the time of the child's birth and asserted that he was not the father.[5] Believing the child might at some later time try to challenge the terms of his will and claim part of his estate, in the 1970s Daniel Ludwig had blood samples frozen that could be used for genetic testing if ever necessary. Patricia did file a lawsuit immediately after his death but the blood tests proved he was not her father and the case was dismissed.[6]

Several months after his divorce, Ludwig married Gertrude Virginia Higgins, a widow, (January 13, 1897 – April 8, 1993), who had three children from a previous marriage. Gertrude, nicknamed "Ginger", would remain married to Ludwig until his death. They lived in the penthouse at the Park Cinq in Manhattan.[7]

Princess International Hotels[edit]

Ludwig built or bought an impressive collection of hotels. These were: the Hamilton Princess and Southampton Princess in Bermuda; the Bahamas Princess (formerly the King's Inn) and the Xanadu Princess Tower (formerly the International) in Freeport; the Acapulco Princess and the Pierre Marques in Mexico; and the Francis Drake in San Francisco. Howard Hughes acquired the Xanadu Princess in 1973, and lived there for two years prior to his death.

Exportadora de Sal, SA[edit]

In 1954, on a trip to Baja California Sur, Ludwig founded Exportadora de Sal, SA, which became the "Largest Salt Company in the World", at the Guerrero Negro Lagoon. As the area was largely uninhabited, the necessary workers and materials were sent to build a large, new town in the municipality of Mulegé. Here, the saltworks were established by pumping the brine to the surface and allowing it to dry. In 1973, with rumors that the Mexican Government would nationalize the company, Ludwig sold his interest in Exportadora de Sal, SA to Mitsubishi, who now own 49% with the Mexican government holding the controlling interest.

Citricos de Chiriqui, SA[edit]

In a $25 million 1960 project in Panama, Ludwig bought 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) of land in Dolega, in the interior of Panama. He had all the land cleared and built roads and bridges. 800,000 Valencia orange trees were planted and full production was expected in 1967. It was considered the largest privately owned venture of its kind in the world. Years later it would fall into government hands. In a New York Times article, "Auction Fails in Panama," May 27, 1991, Citricos de Chiriqui, SA failed to attract any bidders, the minimum asking price was $13.9 million.

Jari Project[edit]

In 1967, Ludwig purchased about 4 million acres (1.6 million ha) of land near the mouth of the Amazon River. His agricultural ventures on that land, called the Jari project, ultimately proved much less successful than his earlier shipping ventures. Large losses and mounting criticism of his business practices led him to hand over the project to Brazilian investors in 1981.


He died on August 27, 1992.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Harvard University
  2. ^ Ludwig Cancer
  3. ^ Daniel Ludwig biography at the LICR
  4. ^ Ludwig Cancer Research - January 6, 2014
  5. ^ The New York Times - August 29, 1992
  6. ^ New York Daily News - January 19, 1996
  7. ^ CO-OP 'Mansions' to be open soon; 5th Ave. Building Will Have Tenants This Month, by Sanka Knox, August 15, 1963, New York Times.



  • Shields, Jerry (1986). The Invisible Billionaire, Daniel Ludwig. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-35402-1. 
  • Dero A. Saunders., "The Wide Oceans of D. K. Ludwig," Fortune, May 1957.
  • "Ex-Wife sues Tycoon Ludwig for 10 million", San Francisco Chronicle, 27 January 1978.
  • "Twilight of a Tycoon" (Time, November 30, 1978, p. 77), available on-line.
  • James R. Arnold, North American Heritage, October 1985 (vol. V11, no. 3).

Other languages[edit]

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