A desire to “do the deals myself” led Lewis to establish TLC Group, L.P. in 1983. His first successful venture was the $22.5 million leveraged buyouts of McCall Pattern Company. It was a struggling business in a declining industry.
Lewis’s streamlined operations increased marketing and led the company to two of the most profitable years in McCall’s 113-year history. In the summer of 1987, he sold the company for $65 million, making a 90-to-1 return on his investment.
Just months after his first successful exit, Reginald F. Lewis’s unknown two-man team outbid huge firms like Citicorp to secure the purchase of Beatrice Foods (64 companies in 31 countries). At $985 million, the deal was the largest leveraged buyout of overseas assets by an American company at that time.
As Chairman and CEO of the new TLC Beatrice International, he moved quickly to reposition the company, pay down the debt, and vastly increase its worth. By 1992, the company had sales of over $1.8 billion annually, making it the first black-owned business to generate a billion dollars in annual sales. [source]
The Upbringing of Reginald
Reginald F. Lewis was born on December 7, 1942, in an East Baltimore neighborhood he once described as “semi-tough.” Lewis was strongly influenced by his family. His parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts always encouraged Lewis to “be the best that you can be.”
Reginald’s grandmother would teach him the importance of saving, even cutting and peeling strips from the bottom of a tin can and nailing it to the floor of a closet to protect his savings.
At the age of ten, Lewis set up a delivery route to sell the Afro American newspaper. After building the business from ten customers to more than a hundred in two years, he sold the route at a profit.[source]