December 07, 2012 at 17:24 PM EST
Saul Steinberg, a once-feared activist investor, dies
Saul Steinberg, a once-powerful activist investor who helped introduce the term "greenmail" to the corporate lexicon and the father-in-law of CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, passed away Friday at age 73. His death was announced by the Central Synagogue. Mr. Steinberg made his fortune in the 1960s by leasing computers to IBM. Forbes declared at the time that he'd made more money than anyone under 30, and he used the cash to buy an insurance company called Reliance Group. In 1969, he stunned the New York financial establishment by attempting to acquire Chemical Bank, a predecessor to JPMorgan Chase & Co., in a hostile takeover. Although he was unsuccessful, the audacity of that move made him someone to watch. In 1984, he made a hostile bid for Walt Disney Co., which paid him a $60 million premium if he would sell his shares and go away. Such payments became known as "greenmail" and become a common way for companies to deal with activist investors who followed in Mr. Steinberg's wake, such as Carl Icahn. Mr. Steinberg was also known as an art collector—he apparently liked Old Masters—and the marriage of one of his children into the Tisch family at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Temple of Dendur "had the air of a royal wedding," Forbes reported. Mr. Steinberg retreated from public view after suffering a stroke in the mid-1990s and Reliance sank into bankruptcy in 2001. Some of his children remain active in business. His son, Jonathan, who is married to Ms. Bartiromo, is CEO of an investment company called WisdomTree.
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