Los Angeles Times

Lloyd E. Rigler, 88; He Made Fortune on Meat Tenderizer

 

By Mary Rourke, Times Staff Writer

 

Lloyd E. Rigler, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who made his fortune selling Adolph's Meat Tenderizer and became a major patron of the arts and a founding donor to the Los Angeles Music Center, has died. He was 88.

Rigler died of cancer Sunday at his home in Hollywood, according to Steven Davis, a close friend.

After selling his meat seasoning business in 1974, Rigler began to spend more of his time sponsoring the arts through a foundation he set up with his business partner, Lawrence E. Deutsch.

In the 1980s, Rigler was co-chairman and later vice chairman of the board of the New York City Opera. He was instrumental in bringing the City Opera to Southern California for a few seasons before the Los Angeles Opera was launched in 1986.

He also was a principal supporter of the Joffrey Ballet, which was based at the Los Angeles Music Center in the 1980s.

"Young artists and young arts audiences were Lloyd's life," said Patricia Kennedy, a friend who served on the Joffrey board of directors with Rigler. "Lloyd was an entrepreneur who used his fortune to give back to the community."

Rigler also sponsored projects that made the arts accessible to everyone. In 1994, he launched the Classic Arts Showcase, programming that is made available without charge to cable, public service and commercial TV stations. The showcase, which offers short clips from dance, music and other arts events and is commercial-free, airs on KCET-TV Channel 28 public television and a cable channel, L.A. CityView. The showcase is available in more than 50 million homes nationwide, according to Rigler's nephew, James D. Rigler, who is program director.

"To bring the arts to households that don't have the money to go to see a ballet, an opera or symphony was the idea," Rigler's friend Davis said. "The arts showcase was Lloyd's last hurrah."

One of six children, Rigler was born in Lehr, N.D., and raised in nearby Wishek, a farming town where his father owned a general store. From age 11, he managed his own department in the store, selling gifts and greeting cards. The family lost the business during the Depression, and Rigler moved to Chicago, where he sold electric irons and, later, shoes.

Rigler graduated from the University of Illinois and in 1939 moved to New York City, where he worked in marketing research and sales. In 1940, he demonstrated RCA television sets at the World's Fair in New York.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, he went to work in Los Angeles as a food broker, selling mushroom products. He met Deutsch when he rented space for his products in the back of the Los Angeles dry cleaner that Deutsch managed.

The two men, who became partners in the food brokering business in the mid-1940s, bought the recipe and the name Adolph's Meat Tenderizer in 1948 after discovering the seasoning in a Santa Barbara restaurant owned by Adolph Remp. They also became partners in philanthropy. In 1966, they commissioned the sculpture "Peace on Earth" by Jacques Lipchitz, which is in the fountain area of the Music Center Plaza.

At his death in 1977, Deutsch left his estate to what is now known as the Lloyd E. Rigler-Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation.

In the 1990s, Rigler sponsored the restoration of the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.

A lifelong bachelor, Rigler encouraged single people to form a voting bloc over issues such as legal and tax protection for singles. He created the American Assn. of Single People for that purpose in 1999.

He also helped to fund a course on the legal rights of domestic partners, which was taught at the USC Law School in 1985.

Rigler is survived by his sister, Andre Estrin of Portland, Ore., and 11 nieces and nephews. A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Egyptian Theater, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood.

 

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Lloyd E. Rigler, Industrialist and Backer of a Variety of Arts Groups, Dies at 88

 

By WOLFGANG SAXON

Published: December 13, 2003

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Lloyd E. Rigler in 1999

Lloyd Eugene Rigler, a California industrialist and investor whose arts philanthropy ranged from music in Los Angeles to ballet in his native Northern Plains, from the New York City Opera to public television, died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88.

His death was announced by the Rigler-Deutsch Foundation in Hollywood, of which he was president, and the New York City Opera, of which he was vice chairman.

He was also the founder of Classic Arts Showcase, an eclectic television service that distributes performing arts films at no cost to public television stations, and of the American Association for Single People, which fights for the economic rights of the unmarried. Mr. Rigler, who built a fortune with Adolph's Meat Tenderizer as its foundation, started as a salesman during the Depression. His connection with television also started early, with the 1939-40 New York World's Fair, at which he demonstrated R.C.A.'s new television technology to astonished audiences.

He and a partner, Lawrence E. Deutsch, who joined him in making Adolph's Meat Tenderizer a national brand, began their philanthropy modestly, in the early 1950's, when they formed the Lloyd E. Rigler-Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation.

The foundation was an innovative venture that helped make the matching funds concept a powerful fund-raising tool. Their foundation contributed to the creation of the Los Angeles Music Center and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

Mr. Deutsch died in 1977 and willed his holdings to the foundation; until his own death, Mr. Rigler oversaw its allocations, many of them to arts groups to the arts in the United States, typically making its funds available to recipients who could raise funds to match the foundation's grants.

Beneficiaries also included medical research in H.I.V. and hearing-loss programs; Free Arts for Abused Children, Amnesty International, Greenpeace and the American Civil Liberties Union. Significant contributions went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, the American Ballet Theater, the Joffrey Ballet and the refurbishing of Carnegie Hall.

His Classic Arts Showcase, started in 1994, shows archival and contemporary film clips from all over the world, made available via satellite to an estimated 50 million homes. With its scenes from opera, ballet and early television, it has been called MTV for classical music fans. The programming is made available without commercials around the clock. Its programming is shown in New York on CUNY-TV and on Channel 25, WNYE-TV.

Lloyd Rigler was born in Lehr, N.D., and grew up in his parents' general store, which served a large farming community. By 11 he ran his own counter selling gift items and greeting cards.

He moved in with relatives in Chicago and sold electric irons and shoes, saving enough money to go to the University of Illinois and graduate in 1939. That fall he headed for New York to try his luck in the theater. He was sidetracked by day jobs like selling Waring blenders and then promoting television sets and records. He spent World War II in the Navy in the United States. After the war, he met Mr. Deutsch, then manager of a cleaners, when he rented warehouse space above the store. Mr. Deutsch had previously worked backstage at the New York City Opera.

The two men went into business as Rigler & Deutsch Food Brokers. At a restaurant in Santa Barbara, Calif., they met the chef and owner, Adolph Rempp, and learned about his meat tenderizer.

They represented Mr. Rempp as food brokers and in 1948 bought his recipe and the name. In 1950 they formed Adolph's Ltd. The brand had become known worldwide by the time they sold it in 1974 to Chesebrough-Ponds, later part of Lever Brothers and Unilever Best Foods.

The foundation took off after the sale of Adolph's. The partners helped the new Los Angeles Opera, of which Mr. Deutsch was president, bring the New York City Opera to the Los Angeles Music Center, where it performed regularly for 16 seasons.

They also began one of the most extensive collections and listings of voice recordings, going back to the first Edison cylinder. The result was the Rigler & Deutsch Index of Recorded Sound.

Their own fabled collection of rare music, including manuscripts signed by Beethoven, letters by Wagner and a first edition of a Mozart opera, was lost in 1992 in a fire that gutted the foundation's headquarters in Burbank.

Mr. Rigler was on the board of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 20 years and was also on the board of the City Center of Music and Drama in New York. He was co-chairman of the City Opera board until the long cross-country commute prompted him to become vice chairman.

He supported the Spectrum Institute in the cause of domestic partnerships, then founded the American Association of Single People in 1999 to assist unmarried Americans facing unequal treatment in the marketplace or by the Internal Revenue Service.

Mr. Rigler's survivors include a sister, Audre Estrin of Portland, Ore.; his nephew James Rigler of Los Angeles, vice president of the foundation and producer of Classic Arts Showcase; and his friend Steven Davis, of Manhattan and Los Angeles.

His nephew said Mr. Rigler made sure, not long before his death, that the Classic Arts Showcase broadcasts would continue at least through 2022.

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