In 1987, the year after Mr. Kluge sold the Metromedia television stations to the 20th Century Fox film studio for a reported $4 billion, Forbes Magazine named Kluge the richest man in America. Those stations would later form the core of the Fox television network, controlled by Rupert Murdoch.
Mr. Kluge entered the media world in the mid-1950s when he purchased stock in the Metropolitan Broadcasting Corporation, then consisting of two stations, WABD in New York City and WTTG in Washington, D.C. Mr. Kluge joined the company as its board chairman and largest stockholder in 1958, acquiring the bulk of his shares from founder Allen B. DuMont. He then started to expand Metromedia's holdings.
His telecommunications conglomerate was vast and various. At one time it included the Ice Capades, Harlem Globetrotters, an advertising agency, Metromail, Mount Wilson in California, music publishing companies holding such titles as Fiddler on the Roof, Zorba the Greek, and Cabaret, and Playbill magazine. Playbill is today owned by the Birsh family.
John W. Kluge was born in Chemnitz, Germany, and immigrated to the United States in 1922. He earned his B.A. degree in economics from Columbia University in 1937. After being discharged from the Army, following World War II, he began collection radio stations.
A philanthropist, he donated $60 million to create the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, in celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Library. The gift also established a $1 million dollar prize, called The Kluge Prize, to be given in recognition of a lifetime of achievement in the human sciences, comparable to the Nobel Prizes in literature and economics. In 2001, he donated his 7,378 acre, $45 million estate in Albermarle County, VA, to the University of Virginia.