Arthur Wirtz

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Arthur Wirtz
Born Arthur Michael Wirtz
(1901-01-23)January 23, 1901
Chicago, Illinois
Died July 21, 1983(1983-07-21) (aged 82)
Chicago, Illinois
Cause of death Cancer
Residence Chicago, Illinois
Nationality American
Education University of Michigan
Occupation Founder of Wirtz Corporation
Owner of:
Chicago Stadium,
Bismarck Hotel,
Chicago Black Hawks,
Chicago Bulls
Home town Chicago, Illinois
Spouse(s) Virginia Wirtz
Children Bill Wirtz
Michael Wirtz
Cynthia Wirtz MacArthur
Elizabeth Wirtz
Family Rocky Wirtz
(grandson)

Arthur Michael Wirtz (January 23, 1901 – July 21, 1983) was a powerful figure in sports and arena operation. He was the founder of Wirtz Corporation, a holding company that owned Chicago Stadium, the Bismarck Hotel in Chicago, the Chicago Black Hawks, and the Chicago Bulls. He was the father of the late Black Hawks owner Bill Wirtz, and grandfather of current Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz.

Early life and education[edit]

Wirtz was born on January 23, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Leona and Fredrick Wirtz.[1] His father was a police officer.[1] In 1922, he graduated from the University of Michigan.[1]

Career[edit]

After school, he worked as a commercial leasing broker with fellow graduate Arthur Rubloff.[1] In 1929, he partnered with grain trader and real estate investor, James E. Norris, who was impressed with how Wirtz handled one of his real estate transactions.[1] During the Great Depression, the Wirtz-Norris partnership began to purchase arenas at much reduced prices.[1] In 1933, they purchased the Olympia Stadium in Detroit, Michigan and its hockey franchise, the Detroit Falcons, which they renamed the Detroit Red Wings for $100.000.[1] In 1935, they purchased the Chicago Stadium.[1] Wirtz was able fill his stadiums after securing and booking the Hollywood Ice Revue produced by and starring Olympic ice skating champion Sonia Henie.[1] He used the proceeds to pay off the mortgage on the Chicago Stadium and also purchase Madison Square Garden in New York City and the St. Louis Arena.[1] In 1946, he and James D. Norris helped Bill Tobin purchase the nearly bankrupt Chicago Blackhawks. Wirtz continued to help run the Red Wings. In summer of 1951, Arthur Wirtz left Detroit to join the (Chicago) board of directors.[citation needed] In 1949, he and Jim Morris (the son of James) founded the International Boxing Club which presided over 47 of 51 championships through 1955.[1] As Wirtz and Norris had control over most of the major sporting venues east of the Mississippi, federal authorities ended their boxing monopoly in 1958 and forced them to sell Madison Square garden.[1] In 1972, partnered with Lester Crown from team founder Dick Klein and purchased a controlling stake in the Chicago Bulls[1] In 1974, he lost a lawsuit brought by Milwaukee real estate magnate Marvin Fishman accusing him of illegally preventing Fishman's purchase of the Bulls.[1]

Wirtz was an important showbiz figure with his presentation of the Sonja Henie Ice Show, which toured arenas for many years. He was also involved with the Henie-produced ice shows which played the Center Theatre at Rockefeller Center in New York for several seasons. Wirtz took over the ownership of Ice Follies and Holiday on Ice, which he later sold to Irvin and Kenneth Feld.

Honors[edit]

He succeeded Tobin as President in 1954 and quickly turned the franchise around, winning the Stanley Cup in 1961. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1971.

Personal life and death[edit]

In 1926, he married Virgina Wirtz; they had four children: William Wirtz; Michael Wirtz; Cynthia Wirtz MacArthur; and Elizabeth Wirtz.[1] Arthur Wirtz died of cancer on July 21, 1983, at age 82 in his Chicago home. Services were held at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago.[1]

Awards and achievements[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]