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D.K. Ludwig; Made Fortune in Shipping Ventures


Daniel K. Ludwig, a fabulously wealthy shipping magnate who created the upscale suburban communities of Westlake and Westlake Village, has died at the age of 95, it was announced Friday.

Ludwig, who owned about 60 oceangoing vessels at the height of his shipping career and built the world's first oil supertankers, died Thursday at home in New York City, according to R. Palmer Baker Jr., executor of Ludwig's estate.

Ludwig had been ill for some time and had not been active for five years, Baker said.

In addition to his shipping interests, Ludwig's National Bulk Carriers invested in forest products, oil and gas, coal and other minerals, hotels and real estate.

In October, Forbes magazine estimated Ludwig's fortune at $1.2 billion. However, the magazine does not list him as one of the world's billionaires in its current issue.

An extremely private man whose unauthorized biography was called "The Invisible Billionaire," Ludwig was known personally to only a few residents of the master-planned suburban Los Angeles communities that he created.

But the impact he had on the area was vast. In 1967, Ludwig's American-Hawaiian Steamship Co. began developing 12,500 acres of ranchland straddling the Los Angeles-Ventura County line into one of the nation's first instant cities.

With an artificial lake at its center, the community was intended to appeal to city residents who wanted to escape the urban environment without leaving its amenities behind. It is home to about 38,000 residents, most of them well-to-do.

Ludwig's company sold most of its holdings in the community in 1973 and 1974 to the Prudential Insurance Co., which sold the land to developers.

Ludwig's vision gave the community the nation's first golf course lighted for nighttime play and a private, man-made lake. To create the lake in 1967, Ludwig built what was then the world's largest privately owned dam.

The Los Angeles County portion of the development incorporated in 1981 to become the city of Westlake Village. The Ventura County portion, substantially larger and known simply as Westlake, is part of the city of Thousand Oaks.

In the mid-1980s, Ludwig's plan to turn half of the 18-hole Westlake Village Golf Course into a business park prompted passionate local opposition. Two members of the Westlake Village City Council flew to New York to plead with him to back down.

Westlake Village Mayor Berniece E. Bennett said she told Ludwig that the community wanted him to give the golf course to the public. "He said he was a philanthropist, and that when he died his money would go to cancer research, but until then he wasn't interested in giving anything away," she said.

Although the council rejected Ludwig's plan, city officials two years ago worked out a deal with a Ludwig subsidiary that guarantees the city that the property will remain a golf course for 200 years.

In his later years, Ludwig devoted much of his attention to the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, founded in 1971, which has a staff of more than 500 scientists and technicians working in 10 offices in seven nations.

Born in South Haven, Mich., Ludwig entered the shipping business by borrowing $5,000 to convert an old steamer. In the 1930s he created the now-standard method of financing ships by securing charters for their useful lives.

Ludwig is survived by his second wife, Gertrude, whom he married in 1937. His first marriage ended in divorce.

Funeral arrangements were private, Baker said.

Correspondent Caitlin Rother contributed to this story.

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