POPULIST HERO OR BOTTOM FEEDER?

After decades of believing, antitobacco forces finally found their Santa Claus. Sure enough, he's short, plump and round, sports a silver beard and grins impishly. But his name isn't Santa Claus, it's Bennett LeBow.

LeBow, 59, makes an unlikely populist hero. He's an '80s-style corporate buccaneer who plundered Western Union, rattled American Brands and took runs at Prime Computer and RJR Nabisco. As head of the Liggett tobacco company, he has contributed to one of America's unhealthiest habits, but last week, ironically, he became the bearer of gifts to those plotting the demise of the cigarette industry. In settling a raft...

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