David Finn, Co-Founder of a Public Relations Power, Dies at 100

“He was very outspoken, and he became not very welcome as part of the team at Philip Morris,” said Mr. Finn’s daughter Kathy Bloomgarden, who became chief executive of the firm when her father retired in 2011.

Credit…via Ruder Finn

He was born David Finkelstein in New York on Aug. 30, 1921. His father, Jonathan, was a writer who used Finn as a pen name and then legally changed the family name to Finn when David was in high school. His mother, Sadie (Borgenicht) Finn, made children’s dresses.

Along with his older brother, Herbert, and his younger sister, Helen, David grew up on Broadway at 110th Street in Manhattan. He began painting at a young age and took to sketching fellow subway passengers on his way to high school in the Bronx.

He and Mr. Ruder, whom he had met when they were 11-year-old Hebrew school classmates, both entered the City College of New York in 1939. When the war began, he joined an Army Air Forces program that allowed him to finish school before joining the ranks. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1943. By the time he shipped out, however, the war in Europe was over, and he was home in two months.

His sister, Helen, married Mr. Ruder, and she introduced Mr. Finn to Laura Zeisler, a Hunter College classmate. They married in 1945 and had four children, all of whom eventually worked at Ruder Finn.

In 1948, Mr. Finn and Mr. Ruder came up with the idea of using fine art to help companies promote their products. The business they founded, Art in Industry, operated out of a former linen closet in the Lombardy Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. But the idea bore little fruit, and they began to cast a wider net for clients. It was then that an uncle of Mr. Ruder’s introduced them to Como’s lawyer, who hired them to promote his client for $100 a week (about $1,200 today).

While expanding the company, with offices in Midtown, Mr. Finn furthered his involvement in the arts, painting and sculpting on weekends and in the evenings and, in his travels around the world to recruit clients, visiting museums and gardens.

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