Henry Crown ( Krinsky; June 13, 1896 – August 14, 1990) was an American industrialist and philanthropist. Among other things, he founded the Material Service Corporation, which merged with General Dynamics in 1959. At the time of his death, he was a billionaire. Henry Crown and Company, of which he is the namesake, is an investment firm that owns or has interests in a variety of business assets.[1] From 1951 to 1961, he was the owner of the Empire State Building.[2]

Henry Crown
Henry Krinsky

(1896-06-13)June 13, 1896
DiedAugust 14, 1990(1990-08-14) (aged 94)
Known forFounded the Material Service Corporation in 1919 and Henry Crown and Company in 1959
Rebecca Kranz
(m. 1920; died 1943)

Gladys Kay
(m. 1946)
ChildrenWith Kranz:
  • Robert Crown (1921–1969)
  • Lester Crown (b. 1925)
  • John J. Crown (1929–1997)

Early life and careerEdit

Crown (birth name: Henry Krinsky) was born in 1896 to Jewish immigrants from Lithuania.[3][4] He was the third of seven children of a sweatshop worker, Arie Krinsky (1861–1937), and his wife Ida (1871–1956) .[5] His father changed the family name to Crown while Henry was a boy.[5] Crown did not attend school past the eighth grade.[5] In 1915, at the age of 19, he and his elder brother Sol founded S. R. Crown & Company, a steel broker.[5]

Sol later died of tuberculosis, and in 1919, his brother Irving joined him.[5] In the same year, he and his brother borrowed $10,000 and founded the Material Service Corporation (MSC).[5] MSC sold gravel, sand, lime, and coal to builders in the Chicago area.[5] In its first year, the company made a profit of $7,000 on sales of $218,000. He left the business to serve as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II.[5]

In 1959, Crown gained a controlling interest in General Dynamics and merged the company with MSC, which had $100 million in sales.[6] In 1960, Crown was named director of General Dynamics and then chairman of its executive committee, which lasted until 1966, when he was forced out by Roger Lewis through the redemption of Crown's controlling block of preferred stock.[5] In 1970, Crown purchased sufficient stock to once again achieve a controlling interest in General Dynamics and quickly removed Roger Lewis, replacing him with David S. Lewis (no relation).[5]


According to his own claim, Crown had given away "nine figures" in his philanthropic pursuits by the time he turned 79. His beneficiaries included the University of Chicago, Brandeis, Stanford, Northwestern and the St. Lawrence University student investment fund. The Henry Crown Symphony Hall in Jerusalem is named after him.

Personal lifeEdit

Crown was married twice. His first wife, Rebecca Kranz, died in 1943.[7] His second wife was Gladys Kay.[7][8] Crown had three children: Robert Crown (1921–1969), Lester Crown (born June 7, 1925) and John J. Crown (1929–1997), a Cook County judge.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Henry Crown and Company Company Profile - Yahoo Finance". Archived from the original on February 22, 2015. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  2. ^ Los Angeles Times (Aug 16, 1990). "Henry Crown; Once Owner of Empire State Building". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ "Recognizing the 90th Birthday of Lester Crown". Congress.gov. Jun 11, 2015.
  4. ^ Charles D. Ellis (2001). Wall Street People: True Stories of Today's Masters and Moguls. p. 241. ISBN 9780471238096.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Cook, Joan (August 16, 1990). "Henry Crown, Industrialist, Dies; Billionaire, 94, Rose From Poverty". New York Times.
  6. ^ Alsop, Stewart (July 17, 1965). America's Big New Rich. The Saturday Evening Post.
  7. ^ a b Chicago Tribune: "Gladys K. Crown, 82, Philanthropist And Exec" By Kenan Heise September 14, 1991
  8. ^ Aspen Institute: "Legacy of Henry Crown" retrieved August 26. 2013

External linksEdit