Tisch passed away from inoperable brain cancer, which was first diagnosed in the summer of 2004. He was 79. His death comes just three weeks after the passing of his fellow owner, Wellington Mara, who died of cancer on Oct. 25 at the age of 89.
Tisch realized a longtime dream in 1991 when he completed negotiations with Wellington Mara's nephew, Tim Mara, and his family and paid $75 million for a 50 percent interest in the Giants.
"I was very fortunate," Tisch said in a 2002 interview. "I got a call from (former Cleveland and Baltimore owner) Art Modell telling me that Tim Mara wanted to sell his half of the team and asking me if I would be interested in purchasing it. I met with Wellington Mara and John Mara and said I'd be very interested. There were no problems with them, and then I bought my share of the team from Tim Mara. It's been a great relationship and a great boon to me. I'm very happy to be the 50 percent owner of the New York Giants."
Tisch played an active role in the organization. As a member of the National Football League's Finance and Super Bowl Policy Committees, he attained a prominence in the sports arena equal to his position in the world of business.
Owning the Giants was one of many careers Tisch pursued simultaneously. Forbes magazine ranks him 56th on its list of the country's 400 wealthiest people and estimates his net worth to be about $3.9 billion.
He was the Chairman and Director of the Loews Corporation, one of the country's most successful financial companies. The company, with a 2004 net income of $1.2 billion and assets exceeding $74 billion, owns and operates 91 percent of CNA Financial Corporation; 100 percent of Lorillard; 100 percent of Boardwalk Pipelines, which consists of Texas Gas Transmission and Gulf South Pipelines; 52 percent of Diamond Offshore Drilling; 100 percent of Loews Hotels and 100 percent of Bulova.
Tisch served as Postmaster General of the United States from Aug. 1986 until returning to New York in March 1988. Prior to his appointment as Postmaster, he served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Loews Corporation and its corporate predecessor, Loews Theaters, Inc., a position held from 1960 until his appointment as Co-Chairman and Co-CEO.
Tisch also served as Chairman of the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau for 19 years and currently serves as the Bureau's (now called NYC & Co.) Chairman Emeritus. He was also founding Chairman of the New York City Convention and Exhibition Center Corporation and Chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Democratic National Conventions held in New York City in 1976 and 1980.
In May 1990, Mayor David Dinkins appointed Tisch as New York City's Ambassador to Washington, D.C.. Through 1993, he served as a liaison between the City of New York and his friends and colleagues in both the national government in Washington, D.C. and the business community in New York City.
From 1990-1993, Tisch served as Chairman of the New York City Partnership, Inc. and the New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry, where he was instrumental in developing a campaign to enhance New York's position as an international business center. After completing his stint as chairman, Tisch remained on the Board of Directors of both organizations, now merged.
Tisch was also a Trustee of New York University.
The Giants, however, were truly a labor of love for Tisch, a lifelong sports fan. He attended every Giants game, home and away, and spent as much time working in his stadium office as possible. His two sons are now important members of the organization: Steven as executive vice president and Jon as treasurer.
The process of going from fan to owner took at least three decades for Tisch.
"I came to New York in 1960, and a couple of propitious things happened," he said. "Our company owned a radio station at that time, WHN. During the 1950s they broadcast Giants games. The president of the radio station had ten 50-yard-line tickets at Yankee Stadium. When we sold the radio station he decided he wanted to stay with us, so he came over to Loews Theaters to become the controller. So for about seven or eight years, I had the use of these tickets.
"Also, when we came to New York we moved to Scarsdale, and I got to know Allie Sherman, who was then coach of the Giants. Actually, Allie's son Randy and my son Jon were born one day apart. So we got to know the Sherman family. Then in 1975 or ‘76, Pete Rozelle moved to Harrison. We lived in the city, but we have a house in Harrison, which was a mile away from where Pete Rozelle and his family resided. We became very friendly with Pete Rozelle. So I have a history in the last 40-some odd years of being involved. I went to most of the owners meetings and all the Super Bowls with Pete Rozelle. I was chairman of a group of his friends called Rozelle's Raiders – I was responsible for getting him to the right place at the right time. He finally gave me a whistle and a sign that said `Rozelle's Raiders.' I've been very lucky. In my own mind, I've been involved in football since 1960."
It was about that time that Tisch first began to consider buying a professional team.
"I had tried several times before (purchasing his interest in the Giants)," he said. "Steve Ross, who ended up as CEO of Time-Warner, Inc. and I tried to buy the Jets in about 1967 or ‘68 and it didn't work out. I looked at other things. In 1988, when I came out of the Postal Service, I decided I would try to buy a sports team. I looked at many of them, both in football and basketball. I looked at the Dallas Cowboys and a couple of other teams. But I made up my mind I was never going to buy a team that was more than one hour from New York. I was interested in becoming owner of the new franchise that was in Baltimore. We were putting together a group when the opportunity came about to become the 50 percent owner of the New York Giants, which I jumped at and dropped everything else."
He completed the negotiations with Tim Mara just a few months after the Giants won Super Bowl XXV.
Tisch's business success was but a small part of his life's achievements. His generosity and commitment to civic and charitable causes was legendary. Tisch was a tireless and influential participant in civic affairs throughout his adult life.
In Feb. 2000, he helped found Take the Field, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to renovating and rebuilding the athletic fields at New York City's public high schools. Tisch, a product of those schools who graduated from Erasmus Hall High in Brooklyn, was Chairman of Take the Field, Inc. He launched the organization with a $1 million donation, and as of earlier this year had raised more than $147 million in public and private dollars.
Tisch and two partners in Take the Field, Tony Kiser and Richard Kahan, believed the private sector had to play a leading role in repairing sports fields at schools throughout the city that had been slowly destroyed by more than two decades of neglect. Tisch approached then-mayor Rudy Giuliani with his idea. The city agreed to match every dollar raised by Take the Field with three of its own, and the mission was to re-do every athletic field in the city that was classified as "needy."
"Take the Field is one of the most innovative and wonderful ideas of my life in the city," said New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, one of Tisch's best friends. "And it doesn't happen without Bob. At a time in his life when he could have just sat back and enjoyed everything he had accomplished, he went to work."
That's what Tisch did throughout his life. He was a founding Co-Chairman of Citymeals-on-Wheels, President of the Board of Directors from 1993 to 2002, and later served on the Board as Honorary Chairman. He also served as chairman of Public Private Initiative, a public private partnership that raises funds for important community programs, from 1997 to 1998.
Tisch's philanthropy continued even after he became gravely ill. His family picked a physician at the Duke University Medical Center to supervise his treatment for the brain cancer. Tisch and his family recently donated $10 million to the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center and the school's Brain Tumor Center.
The gift accounted for the majority of a $16.3 million package of subsidies that Duke will use to support research into the treatment of brain tumors.
"I was very, very impressed by the program at Duke, and very taken by more than just its medical approach," said Steve Tisch. "For me, there was the intangible that became so important, of the spiritual and emotional commitment that these programs and their doctors have."
Duke officials have pledged to use $5 million from the Tisch family to underwrite the hiring of additional researchers. The medical center is matching that with $5 million of its own money. Another $2.5 million from the Tisch family will finance the screening of drugs that might be useful in treating brain tumors. Duke officials are now are calling the treatment center the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center.
Given his many accomplishments and interesting ventures, Tisch was asked in that 2002 interview what was most rewarding to him.
"My brother (Laurence, who died of cancer at age 80 two years ago today on Nov. 15, 2003) and I took the Loews Corporation from a corporation that did about $20 million worth of business and built it up to a $13 billon company, which is now run by the next generation," Tisch said. "Building the company and seeing it grow has been extremely gratifying. I also enjoyed my time at the Postal Service when I was appointed Postmaster General. People said, ‘How can you stand a job like that?' I loved it. I made one mistake – I stayed two years when I should have stayed three years.
"Then, of course, my involvement with the New York Giants has been very rewarding. I've been very, very lucky in my life and what I've been able to achieve."
Everyone who knew him, worked with him or were touched by his generosity were just as fortunate.
Preston Robert Tisch was born on April 29, 1926 in New York City. He attended Bucknell University before entering the Army in 1944. After military service in World War II, he earned a B.A. degree in economics from the University of Michigan in 1948. Tisch is survived by his wife, the former Joan Hyman, and their three children, Steven, Laurie and Jonathan, and nine grandchildren.