CINCINNATI, Ohio (Reuters) - Billionaire Carl Lindner Jr., who went from his family's dairy business to become an owner of banks, insurance companies, and the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, has died.
Lindner was 92 when he passed away on Monday, American Financial Group, where he was chairman, said in a statement.
Described as mild-mannered and private, Lindner was also known as fiercely competitive and an eternal optimist who carried a stack of cards bearing sayings such as "Only in America. Gee, am I lucky."
Early on in Norwood, Ohio, he drove his family's milk truck on dates, and much later he was sometimes spotted driving one of his Rolls Royce convertibles.
A risk-taker during the 1980s who picked up downtrodden companies, Lindner bought and sold a wide range of businesses from banana company Chiquita Brands International Inc. to the Penn Central railroad.
He bought the Cincinnati Reds in 1995 and bristled at criticism of his losing team, selling his majority stake five years later.
At one time he owned controlling interests in Great American Insurance Group, General Cable Corp, Hanna-Barbera Productions, Kings Island Company, the former Taft Broadcasting Company, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and The Provident Bank.
He launched his financial empire with a savings-and-loan and insurance company. Eventually, he shed many outside businesses except for American Financial Group, an insurance holding company with assets in excess of $30 billion.
A conservative who met with presidents, Lindner was among those behind a Cincinnati anti-pornography group, Citizens for Decency through Law, that sparked controversy in 1990 when it tried to block a Robert Mapplethorpe photography exhibition.
Lindner was widely recognized for his philanthropy, and was particularly generous to educational causes because he left high school to work in his father's dairy business.
"I like to do my giving while I'm living so I'm knowing where it's going," one of his cards said.
He is survived by his wife Edyth and three sons.
(Reporting by Joe Wessels and Andrew Stern; Editing by Jerry Norton)