Obituary: Daniel Ludwig

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Daniel Keith Ludwig, businessman, born South Haven Michigan 24 June 1897, died New York City 27 August 1992.

DANIEL LUDWIG, the business tycoon, was a secretive person who managed to avoid the glare of publicity despite a highly eventful career in which he became one of the world's richest men through investments in shipping, real estate, coal-mining and a host of other industries.

Last October Forbes magazine estimated Ludwig's wealth at dollars 1.2bn, though his name does not appear in the recent Fortune ranking of the world's billionaires. The chances are that Ludwig would have cared little either way, as he had a gambler's approach to business, and was willing to risk huge amounts of his own capital for the thrill of seeing a project through. His willingness to take big risks was best illustrated by his grandiose and financially disastrous venture in Brazil during the 1970s, when he built a huge wood pulp plant on the Jari River in a remote corner of the Amazon region. After myriad problems, Ludwig eventually pulled out of the project in 1982, having watched more than dollars 1bn of his own money disappear into the jungle. Colleagues said that he saw the Jari project as his last great venture - but his acute disappointment at its failure had little to do with the financial loss, which he characteristically took in his stride.

In any case, Ludwig had amassed enough money from many other highly successful business ventures during a long and eventful career. He was born in a small town on the edge of Lake Michigan in 1897, into a shipping family. He left school at an early age and showed his business acumen, borrowing dollars 5,000 from his father to convert an old steamer into a barge to transport wood and molasses. Soon he was expanding from freighters into the tanker business, and by the end of the Second World War had one of the largest tanker fleets in the United States.

After the war Ludwig, who already ran shipyards in the US, leased the largest shipyard in Japan - the same Kure yard where the Japanese battleship Yokohama had been built. There he was eventually to build the world's first supertanker, revolutionising the oil tanker business, but still keeping a low profile and never attaining the fame of other shipping legends such as the Greek magnate Aristotle Onassis and Sir YK Pao, of Hong Kong.

The huge wealth generated from Ludwig's shipping empire was meanwhile being channelled into an array of other ventures, including coal-mining in the United States and Australia, cattle ranching, real estate and insurance, before his pet project in Brazil began to take up most of his time. At the same time he was losing money in Brazil, Ludwig was also giving away a large part of his fortune, setting up a charitable trust and pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, in Zurich.

Over the past few years more money was channelled to the institute as parts of Ludwig's business empire were sold off. Ludwig had been in poor health for several years prior to his death.

(Photograph omitted)