Irwin L. Jacobs

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Irwin L. Jacobs
BornJuly 15, 1941
NationalityUnited States
Known forCEO of Genmar Holdings; Founder of Cable Value Network
Spouse(s)Alexandra Jacobs

Irwin L Jacobs (born July 15, 1941) is an entrepreneur and the CEO of several large corporations, formerly including the now-bankrupt Genmar Holdings, which at one time was billed as the world's largest boat-building company. He earned the nickname "Irv the Liquidator" for his aggressive business practices in the 1970s and early 1980s. In 1973, Jacobs founded COMB ("Close-out Merchandise Buyers"), a catalog-based mail-order retailer. In 1986, COMB and several cable television operators created the Cable Value Network (CVN), a pioneering television shopping channel which was later purchased by Joseph Segel's QVC.[1] Jacobs, based in Minneapolis, became wealthy by taking big stakes in Fortune 500 conglomerates, usually with the goal of unlocking value by breaking them up.

Early life[edit]

Jacobs was born to a Jewish family.[2] He started his career working with his father at his business, the Northwestern Bag Company. He attended college at University of Minnesota.

Business career[edit]

At the age of 33, Jacobs purchased the ailing Grain Belt in 1975 for $4.1 million with his company I.J. Enterprises. He tried unsuccessfully for eight months to turn around the company, which was losing nearly $200,000 per month at the time. He then liquidated the company, selling the brand to G. Heileman Brewing Company, and profited $4 million (The Wall Street Journal July 30, 1980). He later sold the property that accompanied the brewery to the City of Minneapolis in 1989 for $4.85 million (Star Tribune 18 February 1989).

Jacobs' next deal netted him even more money. He read about W. T. Grant filing for bankruptcy in the Wall Street Journal and decided to purchase their consumer accounts receivable. He soon thereafter negotiated a deal where he purchased the $276.3 million account for $44 million and 5% of first years sales (The Wall Street Journal July 30, 1980).

Jacobs also owned a minority share of the Minnesota Vikings, which he sold to Mike Lynn in 1991.[3]

In August 2001 Irwin held an open house at his Little Falls, MN, factory to show off a compact, enclosed computer-controlled manufacturing system that can be remotely operated over the Internet. Visitors saw an 18-foot hull (which used to take eight hours to produce), pop out every 35 minutes. Pollution, waste, and labor were to be sharply reduced, while quality would be higher. Genmar also offered a lifetime guarantee instead of the industry standard of five years.[4]

He now owns many businesses including: Watkins Incorporated, Jacobs Management Corp., Jacobs Industries, Inc., J.Y.J. Corp., C.O.M.B. Co., Federal Financial Corporation, FFC Realty, Watkins, Inc., Northwestern Bag Corporation, Nationwide Collection Service, Inc., 1. Jacobs Enterprises, Kodicor, Inc., Brown-Minneapolis Tank and Fabricating Co., Regional Accounts Corporation, Nationwide Accounts, Corporation, Jacobs Bag Corporation, Lawndale Industries Inc., EQC of Indiana, Inc., Touch Corporation, JMSL Acquiring Corporation, S.J. Industries, Inc., JII Air Service, Inc., P.S.T. Acquiring Corporation, Jacobs Trading, and J&D Acquisitions LLC.

Jacobs founded FLW, the parent organization of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, a series of sportfishing tours best known for its bass fishing tournaments, which were developed with an eye toward media coverage in general and television coverage in particular.[5]

In the 18 months preceding Genmar's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in June 2009, Jacobs' Genmar businesses eliminated the jobs of about 3,000 of its 4,500 workers.[6]


[1], "The Evolution of Manufacturing", by Barnaby Feder, accessed on June 29, 2008

  1. ^ Jacobs Trading Company: HISTORY retrieved September 14, 2014
  2. ^ Jewish Virtual Library: BANKING AND BANKERS retrieved March 23, 2013
  3. ^ The Associated Press (December 17, 1991). "Two part owners of Vikings to Sell". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
  4. ^ PeopleSoft: The Evolution of Manufacturing
  5. ^ FLW Outdoors: Irwin Jacobs bio
  6. ^ See "Irwin Jacobs' Genmar files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy," Star Tribune, June 2, 2009