Wheelock Whitney was 'one of the greatest builders Minnesota ever had'

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Wheelock Whitney, who left his imprint on business, sports, and philanthropy in Minnesota, has died at age 89.

Whitney grew up in St. Cloud, became a successful investment banker, and was a key figure in three of Minnesota's pro sports teams.

Former Governor Arne Carlson told MPR News:

"He was the one who was really persuasive in companies moving to Minnesota, forming their own headquarters in Minnesota. He was just involved in everything, whether the arts or education....He was one of the greatest builders Minnesota ever had."

Current Gov. Mark Dayton issued a statement calling Whitney an outstanding and influential civic leader and a dear family friend.


According to the Business Journal, Whitney and a partner started Northwest Growth Fund in 1961 with $2.5 million in capital. One of their first investments was International Dairy Queen, the Journal says.

He soon became CEO of the investment firm J. M. Dain & Co., which is now part of RBC Wealth Management.

Twin Cities Business notes Whitney was inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame in 2000.


In 1961 Whitney was instrumental in getting owners of the Washington Senators to move to Minnesota, where the baseball team became known as the Twins.


The Twins held a moment of silence for Whitney before Friday night's game.

The Star Tribune reports Whitney also helped bring NHL hockey to the state by raising money to build Met Center, which became the home of the North Stars.

He was also a part owner of the Vikings during the 1980s and '90s. Current Vikings co-owner Zygi Wilf said in a statement Friday "During (Whitney's) tenure as team owner and president, he helped the Vikings develop deeper connections to the fans and become further ingrained in the state."


Politics and philanthropy

Whitney served as mayor of Wayzata, WCCO reports, and was the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1964 and for governor in 1982, losing those races to Eugene McCarthy and Rudy Perpich, respectively.

He also helped establish Minnesota's role in addiction recovery by launching the Johnson Institute with his first wife, Irene. The Institute was absorbed by Hazelden in 2009.

Former Minnesota Congressman Jim Ramstad tells MPR: "When I had my problem with alcoholism and needed help and cried out for help, Wheelock was the first person I called."

Whitney is survived by four children and his wife Kathleen Blatz, the former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, the Associated Press reports.

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