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Top 200 Collectors

Black-and-white portrait of a middle-aged white man
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John S. Middleton



19th-century American art; 20th-century American art


Known for keeping a low profile, John S. Middleton is an owner of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Major League Baseball team. In the business world, Middleton is most famous for the $2.9 billion sale of his family’s cigar company, John Middleton Company, in 2007. The John Middleton Company was founded in 1856 as a tobacco shop in Philadelphia by John S. Middleton’s great-great-grandfather John Middleton. It is best known for its Black & Mild brand. The details surrounding Middleton’s collecting interests are shadowy, but one sale hints at Middleton’s art-market power. In 2010, the Economist reported that there was speculation that a representative for Middleton may have purchased Jasper Johns’s famed Flag (1960–66) for $28.6 million in a Christie’s auction of work owned by the late writer Michael Crichton (who appeared on the ARTnews Top 200 from 2006 to 2008).

Beyond the collecting world, he’s been an active patron of education and charitable institutions in the City of Brotherly Love. In 2012 he pledged more than $16.2 million to the Philadelphia School District, Philadelphia Youth Network, Philadelphia Academies, and Drexel University. In 2013 the Middletons pledged $30 million to help alleviate the city’s homeless crisis by doubling the amount of affordable housing, in addition to opening a new medical center. Middleton’s philanthropy was honored in 2014 with the Philadelphia Award, which is given in appreciation for improving the city’s standard of living through education and development projects. As of 2022, Forbes was pegging his wealth at about $3.4 billion.