Peter B. Lewis
Peter Benjamin Lewis

(1933-11-11)November 11, 1933
DiedNovember 23, 2013(2013-11-23) (aged 80)
Alma materB.A. Princeton University
Known forCEO of Progressive Insurance Company
Spouse(s)Toby Devan (1955-1981; divorced)
Janet Rosel (2013)
Childrenwith Devan:
--Ivy Lewis
--Jonathan Lewis
--Adam Joseph Lewis
Parent(s)Joseph Lewis
Helen Lewis

Peter Benjamin Lewis (November 11, 1933 – November 23, 2013) was an American businessman who was the chairman of Progressive Insurance Company.

Early life and education

Lewis was raised in a Jewish[1][2] family in Cleveland Heights, Ohio,[3] the oldest of four children born to Helen and Joseph Lewis.[3][4] His father — who had co-founded a small auto insurance company named Progressive Insurance with Jack Green in 1937[5] — was grooming Lewis to work at the company when he died at age 48 while Lewis was a junior[4] at Cleveland Heights High School.[3] He graduated with an A.B. in politics from Princeton University in 1955 after completing a senior thesis titled "The Financially Irresponsible Motorist -a Problem in Practical Politics."[6][4]


After college, Lewis joined Progressive Insurance as an underwriting trainee. In 1965, he and his mother borrowed $2.5 million, pledging their majority stake as collateral, and completed a leveraged buyout of Progressive.[3][4] Lewis became chief executive officer of a company which had 40 employees at that time.[3] He subsequently grew the business and, by the 1960s, Progressive had over 100 employees and $6 million in annual revenue. Lewis focused on insuring high-risk drivers — where premiums were greater — using an innovative pricing system and consumer-friendly service offering competitor quote matching and instant claims service. He also brought in a slew of young, enthusiastic workers and devolved decision-making downward, fostering a relaxed yet disciplined and creative corporate culture.[3]

As of 2010, Progressive had grown to 27,250 employees, with sales of $15.0 billion and had become the third-largest auto insurance company in the United States.[7] In 2000, Lewis retired as CEO of Progressive, though he remained as Chairman of the Board.

Philanthropy and political contributions

Lewis frequently donated money to charities and liberal political groups. He was a patron of the arts, even going so far as to display Andy Warhol's 10-part series of China's Chairman Mao Zedong in 1974 at Progressive's office in Mayfield Village. Lewis's personal and corporate contemporary art collection is well known — the corporate collection is displayed at Progressive Insurance offices.

Frank Gehry's Weatherhead School of Management Peter B. Lewis Building at Case Western Reserve University

In September 2012 Lewis signed the Giving Pledge promising to give at least half his wealth to charity.[8][9][2] Lewis made donations to:

Lewis was a trustee of Princeton University, former chairman of the board of directors at the Guggenheim Museum (resigned January 19, 2005), and served on the board of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Although Lewis often gave substantial gifts to artistic and educational organizations, he also had a reputation for — often forcefully — insisting that such organizations be financially accountable and financially sound; in 2002, Lewis said he would no longer give to Case or Cleveland's University Circle neighborhood or to any Cleveland Charities due to poor civic and organizational leadership and management.[11] While he did restrict Cleveland giving, he did not follow through completely on that threat.[12]

Lewis was an advocate of taxing and regulating the use and sale of marijuana and was one of the main financial backers of the campaign to legalize the use of marijuana for medical use in the United States. In January 2000, Lewis was arrested and charged in New Zealand for possession of marijuana. Lewis pleaded guilty to three charges and paid a substantial fine, though under New Zealand law he was not required to serve time in jail or prison. According to his lawyer, Marie Dyhrberg, Lewis used the marijuana on the advice of his doctor for pain relief after the partial amputation of his leg in 1998.[13]

Personal life

In 1955, Lewis married Toby Devan.[3] They amicably divorced in 1981. They had three children:[14] Ivy, Jonathan and Adam Joseph.[3] He had homes in Miami, Cleveland, New York City, and Aspen, Colorado; he also traveled around the world on his motor yacht, Lone Ranger.[14] Since 1985, his ex-wife Toby, who had worked at the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, took over the expansive Progressive art collection.[3]

In September 2013, he married his long-time companion, Janet Rosel of Cleveland.[15]

Lewis died of a heart attack at his home in Coconut Grove, Florida on November 23, 2013, twelve days after his 80th birthday.[16] He was interred at Mayfield Cemetery in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.[17] His net worth at the time of his death was $1.25 billion.[18][19]


  1. ^ Capital Research Center: Peter B. Lewis: "“Aviator” of the Left?" by John Gizzi Archived 2012-01-31 at the Wayback Machine retrieved July 23, 2012
  2. ^ a b Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Dan Gilbert, Peter B. Lewis join 'Giving Pledge' to donate some of fortunes" By Michael K. McIntyre September 24, 2012
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i American Policy Roundtable: "Peter B. Lewis: This lone ranger has nothing to hide from the Plain Dealer" by Steven Litt September 29, 2002
  4. ^ a b c d Crains Cleveland: "Peter Lewis -Chairman, Progressive Corp" By ARIELLE KASS May 24, 2010
  5. ^ Progressive Insurance: Our History retrieved March 23, 2013
  6. ^ Lewis, Peter Benjamin (1955). "The Financially Irresponsible Motorist -a Problem in Practical Politics". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ "Peter B. Lewis Building at Weatherhead School of Management". Case Western Reserve University. Retrieved 2013-11-24.
  8. ^ Cleveland Jewish News: "Bronfman, other Jewish philanthropists, sign Giving Pledge" September 20, 2012
  9. ^ Loomis, Carol J. "A pot-loving billionaire joins the Giving Pledge". Fortune Magazine. Archived from the original on 28 October 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Oberlin Names New Hotel and Conference Center in Honor of Peter B. Lewis". Oberlin College News Center. Archived from the original on 21 June 2014. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  11. ^ Litt, Steven (September 29, 2002). "Peter B. Lewis: This lone ranger has nothing to hide". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  12. ^ Litt, Steven (July 10, 2012). "Peter B. Lewis donates $5 million to the Cleveland Institute of Art, his biggest hometown donation in a decade". Cleveland Plain Dealer ( Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  13. ^ "Eccentric billionaire has high profile at home" by Josie Clarke, The New Zealand Herald, August 31, 2000
  14. ^ a b Cleveland Clinic: Peter B. Lewis retrieved March 23, 2013
  15. ^ Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Peter Lewis is praised at his funeral for his drive, creativity and generosity" By Steven Litt November 26, 2013
  16. ^ Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Insurance executive Peter B. Lewis dies at age 80", by Steven Litt November 23, 2013
  17. ^ Litt, Peter (November 26, 2013). "Peter Lewis is praised at his funeral for his drive, creativity and generosity". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved March 20, 2016; "Peter B. Lewis dead at 80". Associated Press. November 23, 2013. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  18. ^ Forbes: The World's Billionaires: Peter Lewis September 2013
  19. ^ Fitzsimmons, Emma G. (November 24, 2013). "Peter B. Lewis, Philanthropist Who Led Progressive Auto Insurance, Dies at 80". The New York Times.