Carl Pohlad passed away Jan. 5 at the age of 93. His family issued this statement:
The following statement was issued today by Jim, Bob and Bill Pohlad, the three sons of Carl Pohlad:
Earlier today, our father, Carl Pohlad, passed away. We were all with him when he died. He has been resting peacefully in his home for the last several weeks.
Carl was the leader of our family as well as the builder and leader of our family businesses. We’ve loved and respected him and are enormously proud of his accomplishments. We will miss him deeply.
We greatly appreciate the support and prayers of our friends, colleagues, employees and community. We especially appreciate the support of our employees throughout the Pohlad family of companies at this difficult time. We want to reassure everyone that we will go forward – just as Dad would have wanted and as he has prepared us to do.
A complete biographical sketch of Carl Pohlad follows.
Carl Pohlad: Private Man, Public Figure
Carl Pohlad was a born entrepreneur. Throughout his life he combined a strong intuition, keen understanding of people, intense work ethic and abundant patience to become one of Minnesota’s most successful business owners. He was revered by his employees and respected by business colleagues around the country.
The Pohlad businesses encompass banking, financial services, beverage, entertainment, real estate and automotive industries, as well as ownership of the Minnesota Twins. His private companies employ 3,000 people across 33 states. They include: Marquette Financial Companies; Marquette Real Estate Group/United Properties/NorthMarq Real Estate Services/NorthMarq Capital/RJM Construction; River Road Entertainment; Twin Cities Automotive/Twin Cities BMW of Minnetonka/Coon Rapids Chrysler Jeep; Northern Lights Broadcasting/KTTB-FM (B96)/KRBI-AM; JB Hudson Jewelers; Marquette Technology Companies/Inetium/Arcadia Solutions/Avtex (all IT consulting companies); Acclaim Benefits; and the recently sold Stanton Group. The foundation Carl established with his family has given more than $100 million to the community.
Despite his success, Carl was regarded as a “regular guy.” He treated people from all walks of life with respect, retaining a soft spot for the little guy, and never forgetting his humble beginnings.
Carl was born in Valley Junction, Iowa on August 23, 1915. During Carl’s childhood his father was employed as a railroad brakeman and was often away. His mother was always helping others in need and working hard for the things the family of nine required. During the Depression all of the children helped make ends meet. Among his many jobs, Carl delivered the laundry his mother did for wealthy families and swept floors at a local bank.
An average student at best, he nonetheless excelled in history and spelling, leading to his life-long love of reading. An outstanding athlete, he learned from his coaches who were patient, wise, caring and focused. A classroom teacher whose discriminatory practice of separating students — by where they lived, how their parents earned a living, their ethnic heritage or the color of their skin — left a lasting impression on him.
Carl graduated from high school and attended Long Beach City College in Los Angeles and Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, both on football scholarships. But his part-time job collecting car loans was so successful he left Gonzaga one semester shy of completing his degree.
After Gonzaga, Carl moved to Dubuque, Iowa, and became a partner with his future brother-in-law Russell Stotesbery in the Federal Discount Corporation (FDC), which operated loan offices in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois.
In 1942, Carl’s career at FDC was interrupted when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After basic training, he fought in France, Germany and Austria as a private and later as a second lieutenant. He was awarded two Bronze Stars, an Oak Leaf Cluster, and three Purple Hearts. After World War II, Carl returned to FDC and was promoted to general supervisor early in 1946, becoming an expert in reorganizing bank departments.
In the fall of 1946 while working in Minneapolis, Russell insisted that Carl and his brother, Harold, take two young women from Dubuque to the University of Iowa vs. University of Minnesota football game. Carl’s blind date with Eloise O’Rourke would last until the wee hours of the morning, long enough to fall in love. On April 22, 1947, they were married and began their married life in a small Dubuque apartment just around the corner from Eloise’s childhood home.
Eloise was the perfect partner for Carl. She enjoyed caring for their home, was very socially adept and completely supportive of her husband’s business interests. Their marriage was blessed with three sons: James O’Rourke, Robert Carl and William Michael in 1953, 1954 and 1955 respectively. While Carl moved in ever-widening circles out into the world, Eloise kept her sons close and unspoiled by their family’s growing notoriety. After Eloise’s death on November 20, 2003, Carl would mourn her for the rest of his life.
Banking and financial services
In 1952, Carl moved to Minneapolis to work at Marquette National Bank. Three years later, after the sudden death of Russell, Carl assumed the presidency of the bank and its holding company, Bank Shares, Inc. During the next three decades under Carl’s leadership, the bank grew through the acquisition of a number of community banks throughout the Midwest.
In 1982, Marquette acquired Farmers & Mechanics Savings and Loan, an unusual merger of a commercial bank and a savings and loan that established Carl as a major player in the independent banking industry. In 1992, he sold Marquette National Bank to First Bank. After the sale, Carl created a new private bank that catered to business owners, Marquette Capital Bank. Marquette also added consumer/commercial branches that offered customers the personal attention of smaller, neighborhood banks combined with big bank products and services.
Carl envisioned a banking enterprise stretching from Minnesota in the north to Texas in the south. Marquette Bancshares acquired several community banks in and around Dallas and Houston. Marquette Bancshares also would diversify by purchasing small commercial, consumer and specialty finance companies under the umbrella organization of Marquette Financial Companies (MFC).
In 2001, Carl was once again approached by an interested buyer. Typical of many of Carl’s deals, the transaction began with a phone call, this time from Jim Campbell, then president of Wells Fargo Minnesota. By August, the deal was finalized to sell Carl’s major bank holdings (108 offices and $5.6 billion in assets) to Wells Fargo.
MFC then expanded in businesses not included in the sale — its specialty finance companies and Meridian Bank in Phoenix, Arizona. MFC also acquired new specialty finance companies that fit its strong risk management and entrepreneurial culture and launched de novo start-ups into market opportunities.
Banking may have been Carl’s first and most important business, but he began to diversify early in his career. Investments in transit followed Carl’s service on a Governor’s Commission charged with saving Twin City Rapid Transit (TCRT). After helping resolve TCRT issues, Carl served on the board of its parent company, Minnesota Enterprises Incorporated (MEI). Carl was instrumental in helping MEI acquire additional transit assets, including the West Towns Bus Company of Chicago and Trans Texas Airlines.
Carl entered the bottling business with a 1962 investment in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Pepsi bottling plant. Carl went on to acquire several bottling plants throughout the U.S., which were later purchased by MEI Corporation.
MEI Corp also would own a wine distribution company, restaurants and snack manufacturing companies, but the bottling business would provide the foundation for its success. In 1983 MEI Corp would become a Fortune 500 company for the first time. A few years later, in 1986, MEI Corp sold and merged most of its bottling assets with PepsiCo, Inc.
A few years later, Carl began to acquire Pepsi bottling businesses again. Those operations, through a series of mergers, grew to later become a highly successful public company, PepsiAmericas, which is a Fortune 500 company with operations in the United States, Central and Eastern Europe and the Caribbean.
In addition to bottling and real estate, Carl had long been interested in professional sports – a natural extension of his own team experience and competitive spirit. With his 1984 purchase of the Minnesota Twins, Carl made a public vow to revitalize the ailing franchise, saying, “I think the Twins can only go one way – up.” In 1986, he told the press, “I don’t find it easy to lose, and I don’t propose to continue.” One year later, the Twins were World Champions – a feat the team repeated again in 1991.
The Pohlad legacy
When all is said and done, Carl Pohlad was a regular guy from the wrong side of the tracks who made it to the big league.
He received many honors throughout his life: an honorary doctor of law degree from his alma mater, Gonzaga University; Minnesota Business Hall of Fame; American Academy of Achievement; Great American Award from B’nai B’rith International; City of Minneapolis, Distinguished Services Award; Minnesota Executive Hall of Fame; and the Horatio Alger Award, to name a few.
Carl certainly will be remembered in different ways. Those closest to him will remember his quiet strength, determination and natural warmth. Those who met him will remember his infectious smile, how he eagerly made their acquaintance and made them feel special in the process.
Baseball fans will remember him as the owner of the only Minnesota professional sports team to win a world championship – twice. Many Minnesotans will view the new Target Field as his legacy, with reactions that run the full spectrum.
Nonprofit community organizations will remember him for generous financial support from both MFC and the Pohlad Family Foundation, and in-kind community support from the Minnesota Twins.
Business leaders will remember him as a man who made banking history, who took pleasure in their accomplishments as well as his own. Those who were involved in negotiations will remember his patience to make the best of every deal. In the words of Don Benson, one of his closest associates, “Carl sees possibilities in a situation that no one else sees.”
The Pohlad business holdings will continue under the stewardship of his three sons: James, director and EVP of Marquette Financial Companies, director and VP of Pohlad Companies, member, executive committee of the Minnesota Twins; Robert, chairman and CEO of PepsiAmericas; and William, CEO of River Road Entertainment and president of Pohlad Family Foundation. Each company’s management team, many comprised of long-term associates, remains in place. And a third generation of Pohlads is beginning to work in the family business.
Carl was preceded in death by his wife of 56 years, Eloise; his parents, Mary and Michael Pohlad, and six of his seven siblings. He is survived by his sons Jim, Bob and Bill Pohlad, their wives Donna, Becky and Michelle respectively, and seven grandchildren Tom (and wife Lindsay), Joe, Chris, Allie, Charlie, Kiki and Oliver.