Obituary: Saul P. Steinberg / Corporate raider, Reliance chairman

Aug. 13, 1939-Dec. 7, 2012

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Saul P. Steinberg, the former corporate raider and chairman of Reliance Group Holdings, has died. He was 73.

He died Friday in his sleep at his home in New York City, the New York Times reported, citing his son Jonathan. No cause was given. That same day, his mother, Anne, died in her sleep in Palm Beach, Fla., according to death notices in the Times. Her age and the cause weren't given.

Mr. Steinberg once controlled Reliance Group, a New York-based property and casualty insurer. The firm, listing $12.6 billion in assets and $12.9 billion in debts, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001 after higher-than-expected workers' compensation costs and other claims. Mr. Steinberg resigned as chairman that same year, after stepping down as chief executive officer in 2000 following 32 years at the company.

Reliance served as the base for Mr. Steinberg's unsuccessful bids for Chemical Bank, now part of JPMorgan Chase & Co., in 1969 and Walt Disney Co. in 1984. His pursuit of Disney ended with the company buying back his shares at a premium of almost $60 million, helping to establish the term "greenmail," according to Forbes magazine.

Forbes estimated that Mr. Steinberg's personal wealth once exceeded $600 million. At Reliance, he received pay of more than $12 million a year in cash, benefits and dividends, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 2001.

"You watch: Like the Rockefellers, I'll own the world," he said in a late 1960s interview with the financial writer Dan Dorfman, according to a 2001 Vanity Fair story. "I could even be the first Jewish president."

Saul Phillip Steinberg was born Aug. 13, 1939, in New York City to Julius and Anne Cohen Steinberg, according to Marquis Who's Who. His father was a rubber manufacturer.

Mr. Steinberg enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, and graduated in 1959 with a bachelor's degree in economics. His first company -- an idea hatched while a senior at Penn -- was Leasco Data Processing Equipment Corp., a computer-leasing company. In 1968, at 29, he took over then Philadelphia-based Reliance Insurance Co.

Mr. Steinberg was a major benefactor of Penn. On its Philadelphia campus, the Wharton School is housed in Steinberg Hall-Dietrich Hall, named in his honor following a 1983 renovation and addition to the business school's home. In 1987, the Steinberg Conference Center opened.

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