Obituaries : Melvin M. Swig; Benefactor, Hotel Owner

Melvin M. Swig, hotel owner, philanthropist and a member of one of the 400 wealthiest families in America, has died of cancer at the age of 75.

Swig, who died Sunday in San Francisco, "was one of the most outstanding citizens that San Francisco ever had," said U.S. Sen. and former Mayor Dianne Feinstein.

He was chairman of the board of Swig Weiler & Dinner Development Co., which controls a real estate empire that includes the Fairmont Hotel on San Francisco's Nob Hill.

The family-owned business also owns Fairmont hotels in New Orleans, Dallas, Chicago and San Jose, along with office towers and other holdings in several major cities, including New York, Washington and Houston. Forbes magazine lists the Swigs as one of the nation's 400 richest families with an estimated fortune of $450 million.

Swig was also a contributor and fund-raiser for the Democratic Party and was a delegate to several party conventions. He supported Feinstein, former Mayor Art Agnos and other state and national Democrats.

In addition, Swig gave millions of dollars a year to religious, educational and civic organizations. Generosity, he said, was a lesson he learned from his father, the late Benjamin H. Swig.

"My father used to tell his friends: 'Give it away while you're alive, because there are no pockets in shrouds,' " he said.

A leader of the Bay Area's Jewish community, Swig also served as chairman of the board of the University of San Francisco, where he established the Melvin M. Swig Judaic Studies program.

An avid sports fan, Swig once owned the now-defunct California Golden Seals hockey team.

Survivors include his wife, Charlotte, three sons, a brother and three grandchildren.

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