The Lindner Family: From Milk Money to The Fortune 500

Carl Lindner Sr. was fond of saying, “You can do anything you want to, children; the sky’s the limit.” Clearly, his kids were listening.

In 1940, Carl Sr. (above) and his brood—sons Carl Jr., Richard, and Robert, plus daughter Dorothy—opened a Norwood dairy processing plant. Adjacent to it was the family’s newfangled “convenience” store—an idea that would revolutionize the way Cincinnati got its milk. By 1960, United Dairy Farmers had nearly 30 stores, and the family had a savings and loan business that would grow into the massive American Financial Group. All three Lindner brothers had also bought into the Thriftway grocery chain (Dorothy married and left the family firm). By the mid-1960s, Richard was running Thriftway, Robert held the reins at UDF, and Carl Jr. helmed AFG.

The Lindners have appeared more than once on Forbes’ list of the nation’s wealthiest families (most recently in July), and have been generous stewards of this city’s arts, charitable, and educational resources. Much in the University of Cincinnati business school is named after Carl Jr.; he and wife Edyth made one of the largest donations in UC’s history ($30 million) to fund a mental health facility in Mason; and Richard contributed $10 million-plus to help build the Varsity Village. Xavier University, the Cincinnati Zoo, Cincinnati Museum Center, and Music Hall have been beneficiaries, too. And when Marge Schott put the Reds up for sale in 1999, Carl Jr. bought the team, ensuring that Major League Baseball’s oldest franchise would stay put.

Winn-Dixie owns Thriftway now, and Robert Castellini is CEO of the Reds. But the Lindners still run both UDF, which now has more than 200 stores nationwide, and AFG, now valued well over $5 billion. When Carl Jr. died in 2011, his funeral “parade” stopped traffic and citizens lined the streets. That’s making your mark.

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