After graduation (HLS ‘68), Lewis landed a job practicing corporate law with a prestigious New York law firm . Two years later he—along with a few others—set up Wall Street’s first African American law firm. Lewis focused on corporate law, structuring investments in minority owned businesses and became special counsel to major corporations like General Foods and Equitable Life (now AXA).
RFL was of counsel to the New York-based Commission for Racial Justice and represented The Wilmington Ten. He was successful in forcing North Carolina to pay interest on the Wilmington Ten bond.
The Merger and Acquisition Strategy
A desire to "do the deals myself" led Lewis to establish TLC Group, L.P. in 1983. His first successful venture was the S22.5—million dollar leveraged buyout of McCall Pattern Company. It was a struggling business in a declining industry. Lewis 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.
The 985 Million Dollar Leveraged Buyout
Fresh on the heels of the McCall deal, Lewis purchased the international division of Beatrice Foods (64 companies in 31 countries) in August 1987. The deal was supported by the most powerful investment banker then, Drexel Burnham Lambert, and led by high yield bond king Michael Robert Milken. Lewis, after closing the deal in December 1987, re-branded the corporation as TLC Beatrice International, Inc. At S985 million, the deal was the largest offshore leveraged buyout ever by an American company. As Chairman and CEO, Lewis moved quickly to reposition the company, pay down the debt, and vastly increase the company’s worth. With revenues of $1.5 billion, TLC Beatrice made it to Fortune’s 500 and was first on the Black Enterprise List of Top 100 African American owned businesses.
RFL visits European food
manufacturer with managers.
L to R - Michael R Milken, Loida Nicolas Lewis, RFL
Members of the TLC Board L to R - Robert de Jongh,
Samuel Peabody, RFL, Col. Lee A. Archer (Ret.),
James E. Obi, Ricardo Olivares