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Albert Lasker

AKA Albert Davis Lasker

Born: 1-May-1880
Birthplace: Freiburg, Germany
Died: 30-May-1952
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: Cancer - Stomach
Remains: Buried, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, NY

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Business, Philanthropist
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Advertising executive and medical research patron

Albert Lasker was the son of a prosperous banker, and joined the Lord and Thomas advertising agency of Chicago shortly after finishing high school, first as an office clerk and later a salesman. He then asked to be given responsibility for a money-losing account so that he could try his hand at copywriting -- at the time, most ads were written by their sponsors, and the primary function of advertising executives was to broker ad space in newspapers and magazines. Lasker's better-written ads pleased that client and several others, leading him to set up a copywriting department at the firm, where he was soon made a partner, and by 1908 he owned the company. He was among the first advertising executives to use slogans and endorsements in print advertising, which made Lord and Thomas the world's largest ad agency. His most successful campaigns included the introduction of sanitary napkins (Kotex, 1921) and disposable facial tissues (Kleenex, 1924), and a series of magazine ads starting in 1923 that showed movie starlets smoking cigarettes, which challenged the taboo against smoking for women and made Lucky Strike a leading brand of cigarettes.

After making his fortune with Lord and Thomas, Lasker worked on advertising for the Republican Party, and bought the Chicago Cubs baseball team. While owning the Cubs in the aftermath of the Black Sox scandal, he led the drive (called the "Lasker plan") to install Kenesaw Mountain Landis in the new position of Commissioner of Baseball. In 1923 he returned to Lord and Thomas, where the company's fortunes had faltered in his absence. In 1926 he purchased a major interest in RCA as it spawned subsidiary NBC, and he subsequently helped craft the new Amos 'n' Andy radio situation-comedy as an advertising vehicle for Pepsodent toothpaste, effectively inventing the concept of the broadcast commercial. After his third nervous breakdown and the death of his wife in 1938, he left Lord and Thomas (while retaining ownership of the business) with the distinction of having twice made it the world's largest advertising agency. In 1942 he dissolved the business, and its three senior executives formed Foote, Cone and Belding (now Draftfcb, owned by Interpublic Group).

After being denied membership in several major golf courses due to being Jewish, Lasker spent $4M to build a full-scale 18-hole par-72 course on the grounds of his Chicago mansion. In retirement, without publicly explaining his rationale, he left the Republican Party and declared himself a Democrat. His second wife was actress Doris Kenyon, though their marriage ended in divorce within a few months. In 1940 he married designer Mary Woodard Reinhardt, and in 1945 they established the Lasker Foundation. Albert and Mary Lasker were leading lobbyists for establishment of the National Institutes of Health, and endowed the American Public Health Association's Lasker Awards, considered one of the most prestigious honors in medical research.

Edward Lasker, his son from his first marriage, became a movie producer (best known for the sci-fi classic The Thing from Another World ) and was married to starlet Jane Greer. Albert Lasker's grandson is screenwriter Lawrence Lasker, whose movies include WarGames and Sneakers. Another grandson is businessman Christopher W. Brody.

Father: Morris Lasker (banker, b. 1840, d. 1916)
Mother: Nettie Heidenheimer Davis Lasker
Brother: Edward Lasker (flour executive)
Sister: Etta Lasker Rosensohn
Sister: Florina Lasker
Brother: Harold Lasker ("Harry", d. 1921 cancer)
Sister: Loula Lasker
Wife: Flora Warner Lasker (m. 1903, d. Dec-1936, three children)
Son: Edward Lasker (film producer, b. 15-May-1912, d. 11-Jul-1997)
Daughter: Frances Lasker Brody
Daughter: Mary Lasker Foreman Block (d. 1981)
Wife: Doris Kenyon (actress, b. 1897, m. 1938, div. 1939, no children, d. 1979)
Wife: Mary Woodard Reinhardt (industrial designer, b. 1901, m. 21-Jun-1940, d. 1994)

    High School: Ball High School, Galveston, TX (1895)

    American National Business Hall of Fame
    Lord & Thomas (1899-1918, 1923-38)
    Member of the Board of RCA (late 1920s)
    Member of the Board of NBC (late 1920s)
    Member of the Board of First National Bank of Chicago (1929-44)
    US Official US Shipping Board (1921-23)
    American Cancer Society
    Lasker Foundation Co-Founder
    National Institutes of Health
    Planned Parenthood
    United Cerebral Palsy Research and Education Foundation
    German Ancestry
    Jewish Ancestry
    Polish Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Depression

    Chicago Cubs Co-Owner (1916-19); Majority Owner (1919-21)

Author of books:
The Lasker Story: As He Told It (1953)

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