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David Luke III, former fifth-gen head of Westvaco, dies at 91

David Luke III, who served as the fifth-generation chief executive of US paper and packaging giant Westvaco, has died in New York, aged 91.

Luke joined the family business in 1953, becoming chief executive in 1963, and stepping aside for his brother John to take over in 1988. He remained chairman of the company until 1996.
Six years later the family business became MeadWestvaco following a $3.29 billion merger. The new company had total sales of $5.4 billion in 2013.

Luke studied at Yale University, although his Bachelor of Arts degree was interrupted for three-and-a-half years while he served as a combat pilot in the Pacific, during the Second World War.
Following graduation, Luke worked for American Research and Development Corp, in Boston, one of the first venture capital firms.

Today a sixth-generation member of the family, John A Luke Jr, is chief executive and chairman of MeadWestvaco – a post he has held since 2002 – but the family’s stake in the company has significantly reduced to just 2%, Bloomberg has reported.

An activist shareholder Jeffrey Smith, who heads hedge fund Starboard Value, which as a 5.6% stake in MeadWestvaco, has indicated the next chief executive of the company should not automatically be a member of the Luke family.

Westvaco, originally known as Piedmont Pulp & Paper Co, was founded by William Luke in 1888. It was based in New York, on Park Avenue, but its headquarters moved to Richmond, Virginia, following the merger.

As well as his long service at the family business, Luke served as a board member for McGraw-Hill Companies, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Bank of New York. He also chaired the Institute of Paper Science and Technology and the American Paper Institute.

Luke’s wife of 60 years, Nancy, died in October, also at the age of 91. The couple lived in Manhattan and enjoyed sailing together. They had no children, but Luke is survived by a sister, as well as many great-nieces and nephews, including John A Luke Jr.

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