Tisch remembered as great man

Robert Tisch was already an icon of industry and philanthropy when Art Modell, then owner of the Browns, formally introduced him to Giants patriarch Wellington Mara in 1991. Modell knew Tisch had long been interested in NFL ownership. And when Mara's nephew, Tim, placed his half share of the franchise up for sale, Modell figured Tisch would be interested in listening.

"We all had breakfast one morning at the Regency [Tisch's hotel in Manhattan] and put it together, just the three of us," Wellington Mara said at the time. "When Bob and I first met, he said, 'All I want to do is get 10 years of fun out of this,' and I said, 'That means you'll have to be in it for 30 years.' We laughed about it. After the NFC Championship Game victory [over the Vikings in 2001], I told him, 'This is one of those 10.' "

Now both Mara and Tisch are gone.

Preston Robert Tisch, 79, a former United States Postmaster General who dedicated much of his life to public service and vast wealth to the assistance of charitable concerns, died Nov. 15 after a prolonged battle with inoperable brain cancer.

His death came almost exactly three weeks after Mara's, who died of cancer Oct. 25.

"It's just incredible that we've lost two pillars, two great men, two pillars of the community in a span of 21 days," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "It's a personal loss for me because I considered Bob to be a good friend. We missed having him at training camp, and we have missed his weekly visits to the office. He was a man of sincerity. He was straightforward. He was a tough guy, a man of courage. He loved the Giants and he liked being with the players and coaches. He was a man of humble beginnings who became a champion of industry, one of the top businessmen in the world. What an incredible journey."

Tisch is survived by his wife of 57 years, Joan, and three children, Steven, a Giants vice president, Jonathan, the team's treasurer, and Laurie.

"Probably with all of his assets, probably with all of his recognition and titles, the one job that he loved the most was co-owner of the Giants," Jonathan Tisch said. "The Tischs and Maras are very close. The Maras allowed us to get involved with their team. My father loved the players. He loved the organization. And every Sunday he so looked forward to being in the football world. That's what brought him a lot of pleasure."

Tisch was born in Brooklyn to Russian immigrants and attended Bucknell before joining the Army in 1944. After military service he earned a degree in economics from the University of Michigan. He was the brother of Laurence Tisch, the former CEO and Chairman of Board of CBS, who died in 2003.

"When he bought his interest in the Giants I felt so very good for him," said Allie Sherman, the former Giants coach and 40-year friend of Robert Tisch. "He really loved it. He and his brother were very close. They were called Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, to use football terminology. Larry took care of the business affairs, and Bob was the outgoing guy, the ambassador. That's how they ran their company. Bob gave much of himself to any relationship that he had."

The brothers were intensely close and began an empire now valued at $3.9 million by Forbes Magazine by purchasing real estate, including a 300-room New Jersey hotel in 1946 for $125,000. Soon they began leasing hotels in Atlantic City before taking ownership of a number of Manhattan hotels.

The Tischs then secured controlling interest in Loews Theatres 1959 and soon their interests spread to holdings in insurance, watches, oil drilling and tobacco.

"My father and late uncle were the perfect example of partners," Jonathan Tisch told Forbes.com "My father was the one who would run the companies that Larry would buy."

In addition, Robert Tisch served as Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer of the Giants and was a regular fixture at Giants Stadium. He was a member of the NFL's Finance and Super Bowl Policy Committees.

On Nov. 12 prior to the Giants game against the Vikings, Tiki Barber, Michael Strahan, Coughlin and general manager Ernie Accorsi visited Tisch at his Manhattan home when it became clear that his health was failing.

"I want to express to the players, coaches and really the entire staff what being involved with the Giants has meant to my father," Steven Tisch said. "For 14 years he's had the privilege of owning this team. It's been the greatest gift for him, personally and professionally.

"The Giants gave him so much pleasure and pride. Sunday after Sunday after Sunday it's what he lived and loved."

Barber was perhaps closer to Tisch than any other Giant.

"Just like Mr. Mara did, he would want us to carry on doing what we loved to do and what he loved to be part of," Barber said. "He was a great philanthropist. He cared. His son Jonathan and I are very close. He's been a big part of my life, being a New Yorker.

"Many things my wife and I have been involved with are the result of him. It's a tough time for everyone involved. I can't even say we sought out to be as close as we were. It just kind of happened. We crossed paths at various charitable functions and we built a bond during the nine years I've been here. They are closer than family."

Both Steven and Jonathan Tisch addressed the Giants after the final practice prior to the Vikings game. Coughlin had phoned Steve Tisch the day before to ask how his father was doing and to let him know he planned to update the team on his condition.

"Jon and I each had a chance to say what we wanted to say and what we felt our father needed to say [to the team]," Steve Tisch said.

Wellington Mara and Robert Tisch grew extremely close during their 14 years together. The Tisch family said their father, too ill to attend Mara's funeral, was greatly saddened when notified of Mara's death by Accorsi and Steve Tisch.

"To lose Bob Tisch so soon after we lost our father is especially heartbreaking for the Mara family," John Mara said. "He not only was a great business partner, he was a dear friend to our family and to me personally. Our organization benefited greatly from Bob's contributions. We will miss him terribly, and we will never forget everything he did for our family, our team and the numerous charitable causes to which he was devoted."

Tisch had been out of much of the public spotlight since the first day of training camp this summer when he made a brief appearance at a welcoming picnic at the University of Albany. He made only occasional appearances at Giants Stadium this season.

"He was also moved when we told him how much Wellington loved working with him and how much respect Wellington had for him," Steve Tisch said. "Ernie [Accorsi] said, 'I can't tell you how many times Wellington said how perfect a partner you are and what a great businessman and gentleman you are.'

"Considering how they had extremely different backgrounds, they were great, great partners … As much as Wellington respected Bob, it's the same amount of respect Bob had for Wellington and has for John [Mara] and all the Mara family."

Tisch's charitable donations were known for their diversity and largesse. The family gave almost $100 million to New York University and dedicated much of the last five years to the renovation of New York City playgrounds. In February 2000 he helped found Take the Field, Inc. He helped launch the corporation with a $1 million donation, and has already raised more than $130 million in public and private dollars for public high school athletic facilities.

"While I admired him for so many things, the trait that I admired most was his commitment to philanthropy," said Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots. "Bob Tisch has left behind a tremendous legacy and will be missed."

Last month, the Tisch family donated $10 million to Duke University's center for cancer research to support both the cancer center and Duke's Brain Tumor Center, which will be renamed the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke.

"I've been very, very lucky in my life and what I've been able to achieve," Robert Tisch said in 2002.

Remembrances of Mr. Tisch…

Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner, National Football League

"Bob Tisch was a superb businessman with great integrity and a deep love for his Giants. He was the perfect partner for Wellington Mara and the Mara family. Both the Giants and the NFL benefited enormously from Bob's financial acumen, consensus-building and experience as a public servant. His priorities were focused not only on New York area football fans, but also on many other New York institutions and philanthropic causes. Bob was extremely generous in investing in people and the game of football itself. His ‘Take the Field' program is just one example of his legacy. If you had Bob and his wife Joan as your friends, you knew that you were part of something special and could count yourself as fortunate."

Jim Fassel, Giants Head Coach, 1997-2003

"He was so successful in everything he did, but his unassuming style let him be comfortable with everyone. He made people feel good, and he always had time for everyone in the organization. He was especially supportive when things weren't going well, and his encouragement helped all of us get through some tough times. While he took such great pride in owning the Giants, his humble style allowed him to stay in the background … His work, generosity and follow-through to make sure high schools have good, safe fields on which to play football and other sports is one of the best community projects I've witnessed."

Frank Gifford, Giants Hall of Fame Player, 1952-60, 62-64

"Bob was a longtime friend of mine. I first met Bob on the sidelines in Yankee Stadium (in the 1960s). He was a friend of Allie Sherman's, who was the coach at the time. He used to come down to the sidelines. He was always around. He and I talked about it many times. When he bought his interest in the Giants, I said, ‘You're back on the sidelines.'

"He was a good friend. We spent a lot of time together in a couple of different lives, if you will. We spent a lot time together and he was a wonderful guy. I was very happy when he bought half of the team.

"Bob was obviously an incredible businessman. But I think he got the greatest pleasure in his life from his association with the Giants. It was a wonderful association. He and the Maras got along wonderfully. Wellington and Bob got along so well. Whenever they made a decision, they stood by it together. It was a terrific marriage between the two families."

Bob Kraft, owner, New England Patriots

"Bob Tisch is one of the dearest men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He was someone I knew before I came into the National Football League. Bob and Joan were extremely gracious in welcoming my family into the league in 1994, for which I was always thankful and will always remember.

"Bob embodied so many special qualities. He was a man of great substance who had a sense of humility and caring for all people. He was truly unique. He was a great NFL partner, too. When it came time to finalize any business deal, we could always rely on Bob to advance the proceedings in a classy and efficient manner. As a fellow NFL owner, I am certainly proud to have been among the ranks of such an enterprising individual. He was passionate about professional sports and was a dedicated and loyal businessman. While I admired him for so many things, the trait that I admired most was his commitment to philanthropy. Bob Tisch has left behind a tremendous legacy and will be missed."

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