Alfred "Al" Lerner was born in Brooklyn, New York, Lerner was the only son of Russian-Jewish immigrants. His parents owned a candy store and a sandwich shop in Queens, New York.
He attended Brooklyn Technical High School and then Columbia University, graduating in 1955 in Arts.
After the graduation, he decided to try and find his calling, enlisting in the U.S. Marines and serving as a pilot from 1955 to 1957, in Quantico, Virginia and Pensacola, Florida.
In 1955, he married his wife Norma Wolkoff, spending together 47 years and raising two children, business executive Randy Lerner, and Nancy Lerner Beck.
After leaving the Marines, Lerner began his first business - selling furniture, and succeeded to make enough money to buy a rental apartment building in Cleveland.
Within several decades, his real estate portfolio grew so big, that in 1990 he was able to become a major shareholder in MNC Financial, a small Baltimore bank, and even invested $100 million of his own money when he took MBNA, the credit card issuer within the bank, public - to ensure the success of the initial sale of stock. With time, MBNA would become the second largest credit card issuer in America!
In 1998, Lerner purchased the franchise rights of Cleveland Browns of the National Football League, paying a record $530 million! After his death, his wife and son Randy Lerner would take over the Browns franchise.
Symbolically, Lerner's initials were stitched on the shoulders of the Browns' jerseys until the 2013 NFL season, when Jimmy Haslam bought the team.
Lerner, being very proud of serving as a U.S. Marine, ordered to fly the Marine Corps flag atop the stadium during the entire time he owned the Browns. Also, he ordered to fly the Cleveland Browns football team flag at all MBNA America sites, together with the American flag and respective State flags.
As for Lerner's personal life, he was extremely private and stayed away from cameras and red carpets, so not much information on his private affairs leaked into the mass-media.
The Lerners were members of Temple Tifereth-Israel in Cleveland. They were known for their charity work, donating a record $100 million to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, plus $10 million to the National Museum of the Marine Corps, plus $25 million to the Columbia University.
In 1997, a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.
Lerner was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2001, underwent surgery and spent most of his last year in hospitals. He was buried in Cleveland, Ohio.
Goldstein, Richard Alfred Lerner, 69, Banker; Revived Cleveland Browns New York Times
"Al Lerner - Former Marine & Cleveland Browns Owner".
Horatio Alger Association