From the day they first began working together in an advertising agency 24 years ago, William Burnett Benton and Chester Bowles blended like benedictine and brandy. Within eleven years Benton & Bowles, still in their 30s, had built an ad agency of their own into an $18 million-a-year business.

The partnership ended in 1936 when Bill Benton resigned, filled with a sudden zeal for public service and good works. He went to the University of Chicago as vice president, bought the Encyclopaedia Britannica in partnership with the university, also picked up a few other businesses (including Muzak, which pipes canned...

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