|This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2014)|
George E. Norcross III (born 1956) is an insurance executive, community leader, philanthropist and a Democratic Party leader in New Jersey.
Norcross currently serves as Executive Chairman of Conner Strong & Buckelew, a national insurance brokerage and employee benefits consulting firm based in Marlton, NJ and Philadelphia, PA.
He is Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Cooper Health System and Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ and has served as a Trustee since 1990.
He led the effort to create the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, the first new medical school in New Jersey in 30 years and to partner with the nationally renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center to create the MD Anderson Cooper Cancer Center.
Norcross has been a prominent political leader in New Jersey for over 25 years, since he became chairman of the Camden County Democratic Committee in 1989, a position he held until 1993. For many years, he has been named as one of the most powerful non-elected political figures in New Jersey by the website PolitickerNJ.com. He is a member of the Democratic National Committee.
Early Life and Family
Norcross was born in 1956 to George E. Norcross, Jr., the president of the AFL-CIO Central Labor Union of Camden and Gloucester Counties and AnneCarol. Norcross’ father was active in the community of Camden and a board member of Cooper University Hospital. He also served on the board of and chairman of United Way.
Norcross graduated from Pennsauken High School and briefly attended Rutgers University. He has three brothers, Donald, a state senator representing New Jersey's 5th Legislative District and a business agent for the electricians union, Philip, managing partner of the law firm Parker McCay and John, an author and professor of Psychology at the University of Scranton.
Norcross has two children, Lexie and Alex, and resides in Cherry Hill, New Jersey with his wife Sandy.
Norcross got his start in the Camden office of the Philadelphia-based insurance company Zinman Grossman Lichtenstein Co. In the early 1980s, Norcross formed his own insurance brokerage firm, later known as Keystone National Companies, which soon established itself as a leading insurance brokerage company in Southern New Jersey.
In 1996, Commerce Bancorp purchased Norcross’ Keystone National Companies, Inc, and Norcross was named Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Commerce National Insurance Services. By 2001, Norcross led Commerce National Insurance Services to become the 5th-largest bank-owned insurance firm in the United States and among the top 20 brokerages in the United States. [American Banker April 6, 2011] Norcross joined the Board of Directors of Commerce Bankcorp in 2002. In 2007, Commerce Bank was sold to TD Bank Financial and Norcross bought back the insurance firm, which is now known as Conner Strong & Buckelew.
Conner Strong & Buckelew
George Norcross is Executive Chairman of Conner Strong & Buckelew. Conner Strong & Buckelew serves the insurance, risk management and employee benefits brokerage and consulting needs of clients throughout the United States and abroad. Norcross has been the head of Conner Strong & Buckelew and predecessor companies since 1979.
Conner Strong & Buckelew is one of the nation’s largest insurance brokers, with offices in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware and Florida. It is headquartered in Marlton, NJ and Philadelphia, PA.
Interstate General Media
In April 2012, a group of influential New Jersey and Philadelphia-area business executives headed by Norcross, former New Jersey Nets owner Lewis Katz and cable TV mogul H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest purchased The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com media properties for $55 million.
The sale was conducted in extreme secrecy. The purchase price — which includes up to $10 million from investors to fund operations — is less than 15 percent of the $515 million paid by a group of investors in 2006, and far less than the $139 million creditors paid at a 2010 bankruptcy auction. The buyers established a new company, Interstate General Media LLC, to operate Philadelphia Media Network.
“We don’t have all the answers,” said Norcross upon the company’s purchase. “We hope to grow this enterprise, not to lay people off. This newspaper hasn’t made money for years.”
The company moved in July 2012, from its longtime home at 400 N. Broad St. to its new, state-of-the-art headquarters at 801 Market St. The new location has 125,000 square feet of space on one floor, the third. Community groups including the Salvation Army had benefited from donations of furniture, office supplies, and gym equipment, and financial contributions related to the company's move. Norcross praised the company's new home. "There aren't many newspaper companies holding events like this," Norcross said. "The facilities we're in are exceptional."
As one of two managing members, Norcross spearheaded a refocusing of the company and its coverage to greater focus on coverage of local issues. The company, which was losing millions of dollars annually when Norcross’ group purchased it, was on the path to profitability by the end of 2013.
In late 2013, Inquirer editor Bill Marimow was dismissed by Publisher Bob Hall, prompting Lewis Katz, the second managing member of the company, to sue the company and Bob Hall to restore Marimow. Katz also attempted to remove Hall as publisher. A Philadelphia court ordered Marimow to be allowed to return and Hall to keep his job. The inability of the managing members to come to an agreement about the management and direction of the company led to additional litigation, including motions to dissolve the company in Delaware Court.
In the spring of 2014, Delaware courts decided that company would be sold at auction among the current owners. On May 27, 2014, Norcross and his partners Bill Hankowsky and Joe Buckelew agreed to sell their portion of the company in a deal value of $88 million. In their statement announcing they had declined to submit a final bid, Norcross and his partners stated, “We have greatly valued our time as owners of the company and are proud of the remarkable turnaround begun under our ownership. In the decade before we took over, the company had gone from generating over $500 million of revenue with 3,000 employees to generating just over $200 million and with just 2,000 full-time and temp employees. It went from making $145 million in profit to losing as much as $50,000 a day. In the first 18 months of our group’s ownership, IGM made millions of dollars of investments in its long-term future, including provisions for improvements at the production plant, the 801 Market Street headquarters and IT across the company. The company also dramatically streamlined operations, including a focus on improvements to home delivery and reinvigorated advertising initiatives.”
The deal was closed on June 11, 2014.
Cooper University Health System
Norcross is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Cooper University Health System and Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey and has served as a Trustee since 1990. Norcross transformed Cooper into a top-tier tertiary academic medical center and launched the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, the first new medical school in New Jersey in 30 years. New Jersey Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts praised Cooper for its “unflagging commitment to the city.” Norcross was also the driving force behind the MD Anderson Cooper Cancer Center which opened in October, 2013. “I’ve come to see that Cooper’s interests and Camden’s interests are inseparable,” Norcross has said about the link between his efforts boosting Cooper’s business and that of the hospitals commitment to revitalizing the city of Camden.”
Cooper University Hospital funded two parks in Camden which the hospital agreed to take care of for 20 years. At the Cooper Commons groundbreaking, Norcross announced that Cooper was pledging $500 million of restorations and renovations to Cooper Plaza, the Camden neighborhood that includes the hospital. It was Norcross who enlisted South Jersey native television star Kelly Ripa to become a spokeswoman for Cooper in 2005. Norcross is a longtime family friend of the “Live With Regis and Kelly” co-host’s father Joseph Ripa, a veteran Camden County Freeholder.
In addition to his role in making Cooper a regional healthcare leader, Norcross has been a major benefactor of The Cooper Foundation. Most recently, The Cooper Foundation, with the support of the Norcross family, in partnership with the non-profit TEAM Schools of New Jersey, announced plans to create the KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy, New Jersey's first "renaissance school" that will deliver world-class public education to 3,000 children, grades K-12, in Camden.
On June 17, 2014, Cooper announced its “Veterans VIP Priority” program. The new program, announced in the wake of the national Veterans Administration scandal, will provide same-day service to area vets, among other benefits.
In addition, Norcross and his wife Sandy serve as co-chairs of The Cooper Gala, which is the largest fundraising event each year and has raised over $6 million to benefit Cooper University Hospital. In addition to supporting The Foundation, in 2011, Sandy and George Norcross announced a $5 million pledge to Cooper University Hospital. It was the first commitment in a $50 million capital campaign to help fund the rapid expansion of one of New Jersey's preeminent medical centers.
Leadership in Camden
Education reform: Norcross is a leading advocate of education reform in New Jersey. He is passionate about the need to help inner-city kids have the same access to a great education as children from more affluent districts.
As an education advocate, Norcross promoted the Opportunity Scholarship Act which would allow students in underperforming schools the chance to attend better public or private schools and receive a voucher toward scholarship.
Plans were submitted in December 2012 for the KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy, which is scheduled to open in fall 2014 with kindergarten and pre-K programs, then add a grade per year.
Higher education reform: In February 2012, Norcross penned an op-ed in the Cherry Hill Courier Post called for the merger of Rowan University and Rutgers-Camden, writing that it could be a “catalyst for the kind of renaissance that could make South Jersey an epicenter of intellectual and economic success for decades. It’s up to us to seize this chance.” In June that year, the state approved the partnership.
Public safety reform: Norcross was a leading proponent of reorganizing the police department and tripling the number of police on the street on the street. The countywide police force Norcross advocated for, which would require disbanding the Camden Police Department, would allow for more police officers on the ground by not inheriting pension and benefit costs paid by the city, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. If people don't feel safe going into Camden, it would harm Cooper's reputation and the medical center would have to consider moving to the suburbs as other hospitals had, Norcross told the Inquirer. The Camden Police Department was eliminated and a Camden County Police Department was formed in May 2013.
As reported by the Associated Press, after the change over, crime began to drop dramatically: “crime in every major category except for arson — which held steady — was down from Jan. 1 to March 31 compared with the same period last year.” The Star-Ledger reported that crime was down 30% in the first quarter of 2014  and the Inquirer wrote “Crime plummets in Camden in 1st quarter” of 2014.
Norcross became chairman of the Camden County Democratic committee in 1989. The party thrived under his leadership, recruiting high-quality candidates and pioneering the use of network television in local campaigns. The Camden Democratic apparatus quickly became one of New Jersey’s most successful political operations, consistently winning local, county and state legislative races and becoming a model for other county parties.
Over the last two decades, candidates recruited by Norcross have ascended to key leadership roles in the legislature, boosting South Jersey’s Statehouse presence and helping the region gain its fair share of state resources for schools, economic development and other critical needs long overlooked by state officials. Though stepping down as Democratic chairman in 1993, Norcross has maintained his leadership role in local and state politics. In addition to being the key figure in local and regional politics, he has been a principal player in the election of Democratic governors and U.S. senators. Norcross has, for over a decade, been named one of the most powerful non-elected figure in New Jersey politics by PolitickerNJ.com.
A political opponent secretly taped him while discussing politics and his relationships with a New Jersey governor and U.S. senator and urged prosecutors to investigate. The tapes, made public at Norcross's request, stirred wide political controversy but resulted in no legal action as both the U.S. Attorneys Office and the state attorney general found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Norcross is a committed supporter of many charitable organizations. In particular, he has been a long-time benefactor of the Larc School in New Jersey, a special education school for children with disabilities. He is Chairman of the annual Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge, the largest 10K run in the tri-state area and the Larc School's most significant fundraising event. The run and other initiatives have raised more than $3 million for the Larc School.
The Norcross Foundation underwrote a relief trip to Haiti in January 2010 following the devastating earthquake there. Doctors and nurses from Cooper University Health System took part in a FEMA operation.
Norcross has been nominated for numerous awards to honor his contributions to the community. In particular, Norcross was honored by Chabad Lubavitch, received the Annual Champion of Children's Award and the Tree of Life Award from the Jewish National Fund for his philanthropic and community leadership. In addition, he was named as a 2011 Executive of the Year by South Jersey Biz magazine.
The Norcross Family, The Norcross Foundation, and its affiliated entities provide support to over 200 life-changing organizations each year. The Foundation focuses its charitable efforts on improving education for youth, funding research to help cure diseases, supporting the arts and culture, improving the community's safety, and helping people with disabilities. In recognition for its contributions, Conner Strong & Buckelew has been named a leading corporate giver for four consecutive years by the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Boards and Commissions
Norcross also serves on the Board of Directors for Holtec International, a global leader in power generation technologies. Formerly, he served on the Board of Directors of Commerce Bancorp, Inc. (NYSE:CBH) and was Chairman and majority shareholder of U.S. Vision, a large national retailer of optical products and services. He also serves as a member of the Democratic National Committee representing the State of New Jersey.
In 2013, Norcross was honored by the New Jersey March of Dimes at the organization's Born to Shine Gala. The Gala honors leaders from local hospitals that are making a difference everyday for mothers and babies in the community.
In 2013, BioNJ named Norcross as one of New Jersey's 2013 Top Influencers in New Jersey Biotech. In 2011, Norcross received the New Jersey Hospital Association Healthcare System Trustee of the Year Award.
In 2009, Norcross accepted the Susan G. Komen Beacon of Hope Award on behalf of Cooper University Hospital/Cooper Cancer Institute.
In 2006, Norcross was named Trustee of the Year by the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals.
- Courier-Post Oct. 23, 2009
- Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 1, 2008
- Philadelphia Inquirer Jan. 17, 2013
- Murphy, Brian P. (July 1, 2002). Senatorial suspense on the CBT and arena. PoliticsNJ.com
- Riley, Clint (May 21, 2003) Fast-Growing Commerce Bancorp Counts On Political Ties. Hackensack Record
- Engle,Bob & McClure, Sandy (2008), The Soprano State: New Jersey's Culture of Corruption, St. Martin's Press, New York.
- Rys, Richard (May 15, 2006) They Have No Choice. Philadelphia Magazine