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Editor's Note-The Newest Hall of Famers
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Editor's Note-The Newest Hall of Famers

Introducing five of Minnesota’s most accomplished business leaders ever.

This month, Michael Berman, James Dolan, David Frauenshuh, Richard Knowlton, and John Lindahl—the subjects of this issue’s cover story—will be inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame, joining an honor roll of 56 of Minnesota’s most accomplished business leaders of all time.

Each member of the Hall of Fame has led at least one competitively superior business organization while making substantial contributions to communities outside of business. Each has discerned opportunities unnoticed by others; pursued those opportunities with imagination and persistence; done so with integrity; and enjoyed a lifetime of achievement and service.

In addition to honoring them in this issue, we will honor them at an induction dinner at the Minneapolis Hilton on July 29. Details about that event appear on page 35.

This year’s inductees also will be enshrined, along with all of the Hall of Famers inducted in the past 11 years, in a permanent Minnesota Business Hall of Fame exhibit at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. To visit it, look near the skyway that connects the school’s two buildings. The accomplishments of each Hall of Fame member have been encapsulated on a plaque and in an electronic display. We also summarize those achievements for you here.

 

2009 

Michael Fiterman In 1983, he became CEO of a $20 million box and burlap bag making company started by his grandfather. In the next 26 years, he transformed the company into a $500 million producer of corrugated cartons, plastic extrusion products, health care equipment, office products, and high-tech machine tools, and took Liberty Diversified Industries into global markets.

Dennis Frandsen Banker, manufacturer, real-estate developer, and self-described “entrepreneur and opportunist,” his post–high school business cutting lumber led to the acquisition and eventual development of forested land. In his 59-year career, his Frandsen Corporation went on to purchase 38 community banks totaling $1.5 billion in assets, and to acquire several plastic-molding and manufacturing operations.

Viet Ngo Vietnam born and University of Minnesota educated, he has been the designer and builder of water-treatment facilities and other large-scale projects in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia. As of 2009, Lemna International employed 600 individuals and had completed more than 300 projects in 26 years, including a solid-waste treatment plant in Ho Chi Minh City and a natural gas compression plant in Nigeria.

Edward Jay Phillips After buying and managing his family’s budget liquor business, he formed Millennium Import Company in 1994 to introduce two premium vodkas to American consumers: Chopin and Belvedere. In the 10 years that followed, the Belvedere brand alone accounted for $1 billion in U.S. sales. After selling Millennium Import, he became active in local community service.

Carl Platou He transformed Fairview Hospital, the second smallest of about 25 Twin Cities hospitals in the 1950s, into a seven-hospital, 90-clinic health care system, and in doing so, engendered the concept of multi-hospital systems through which most U.S. health care is now delivered. He also spearheaded a Minnesota Medical Foundation effort to fund a world-class biomedical research park.

 

2008

Lee Anderson, Sr. He transformed a small-scale installer of insulation into the $1.5 billion APi Group of companies that serves the commercial-construction industry and became a leading contractor in environmental-protection equipment for the power industry. In 40 years, he executed more than 40 acquisitions of companies. He also became the owner of several banks, and is a widely admired philanthropist.

Gary Holmes sold light bulbs as a teenager, then bought a rental property at age 16, and was financially independent by age 21. At the time of his induction, he was CEO and sole owner of CSM Corporation, an $800 million real-estate development and management company with more than 200 residential, commercial, industrial, retail, and hotel properties in 16 states.

Horst Rechelbacher A 1970s operator of hair salons, he founded hair-styling schools and the Aveda Corporation, a seller of plant-based hair-care products through 25,000 stores, salons, and spas. After selling Aveda to Estée Lauder for $300 million, he started Intelligent Nutrients, a producer of all-organic cosmetics and personal-care products.

Guy Schoenecker Creator of happy customers and motivated employees, he founded BI, at one time short for “Business Incentives,” later for “Business Improvement.” At the time of his induction, it was a $485 million leader in the creation of customized incentive-marketing programs with operations in Australia, China, Dubai, and the United Kingdom.

Eugene Sit Investment manager, philanthropist, patriot. A World War II refugee in his native China, he knew no English when entering the United States at age 11, but earned a college scholarship and became an investment manager. In 2008, Sit Investment Associates had $7 billion under management. In 2005, he cofounded the Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund.

 

2007

Ray Barton He saw opportunities others missed. His insights into the power of franchising led to the expansion of Great Clips into the biggest single hair-care brand in the world. At the time of his induction, the 25-year-old company had $700 million in system-wide revenue and 2,580 franchise stores throughout 42 states and western Canada.

Don Helgeson For more than 50 years, a leader in Minnesota’s poultry industry. He built Gold’n Plump into a $200 million integrated breeder, feeder, processor, and marketer of chickens. When he was inducted, the company had 1,500 employees, three production plants, and two hatcheries. It was among the first to brand fresh processed chickens.

Donald Kotula An Iron Range–bred bulldozer salesman, he responded to rising energy costs in the early 1980s by selling parts for log-splitters to homeowners with wood-burning stoves. That enterprise led to the creation of Northern Tool & Equipment, which at the time of his induction had $700 million in annual sales through catalogs, the Internet, and 62 stores.

William S. “Bill” Marvin Known for his single-minded devotion to his family’s century-old window and door company, he served as president and chairman of Marvin from 1960 through 2001 and as CEO from 1986 to 2000. He joined the company as “employee number eight.” Under his direction, it grew to 5,500 employees and $600 million in annual revenues.

M. A. Mortenson, Jr. A builder of skyscrapers, airports, sports arenas, schools, and manufacturing plants, when he became president of the M. A. Mortenson Company in 1969, it had 15 employees. By 2007, it had 1,200 employees, offices in six states, and annual revenues of $1.4 billion, and it had changed the skylines of dozens of American cities.

 

2006

Al Annexstad A believer in outworking the competition, he joined Federated Insurance of Owatonna as a sales representative, opened offices in five states, and doubled the number of clients in the South. He became CEO in 1999, and in seven years built Federated into a company with $4.5 billion in assets, annual premiums of $1.4 billion, and a surplus of nearly $1.5 billion.

Jill Blashack Strahan Founder and CEO of Tastefully Simple, a retailer of gourmet and specialty food products that grew from a small shed in Alexandria to $140 million in sales 13 years later, when the company was engaging 27,000 consultants to serve as hosts at home tasting parties. She says: “Dream it, believe it, work it.”

Mark Davis Premier commodities processor. He transformed the humble St. Peter Creamery of Le Sueur into Davisco Foods International, the largest supplier of cheese to Kraft and the world’s largest producer of whey protein isolates. At the time of his induction, Davisco produced a million pounds of cheese per day and generated $700 million in annual revenues.

Stanley Hubbard A visionary at Hubbard Broadcasting known for transforming supposedly “unworkable” ideas into successful enterprises, including United States Satellite Broadcasting, which launched its first satellite in 1993 when few homes had satellite dishes. His Conus Communications allowed local U.S. stations to gather news from throughout the world.

Thomas Rosen joined his family’s feed, fertilizer, and farm-chemical business in 1972, became CEO in 1991, and expanded its revenues from $550 million in 1998 to $2 billion at the time of his Hall of Fame induction. Rosen’s Diversified’s five beef plants butchered and processed 7,000 head of cattle per day at the time, and its chemical and fertilizer business spanned 17 states.

 

2005

Dale Bachman In 1992, he became a fourth-generation president of his family’s floral and nursery company and expanded it into plant-care products, tools, and home décor items. At the time of his induction, Bachman’s employed approximately 1,100 individuals throughout the year and an additional 500 during peak seasons.

James Campbell CEO of Minnesota’s largest bank, which he developed into a leading commercial lender. During his tenure, the assets of Minnesota banks within the Wells Fargo system grew from $5.9 billion in 48 separately chartered institutions to $52 billion within one institution. In retirement, he became a leading spokesman on public policies affecting business.

Ron Fagen Granite Falls–based builder of flour mills, meat-packing plants, power plants, corn- and soybean-processing facilities, and more than 70 percent of the nation’s ethanol-production plants. Within two years of his 2005 induction, Fagen, Inc., had grown to $2 billion in revenues and more than 3,500 employees in 37 states.

Robert Kierlin He cofounded Fastenal, Inc., in a tiny Winona storefront in 1967 and built it, by the time of his induction, into a $1.2 billion retailer of industrial parts with 7,000-employees, 1,600 stores, 12 distribution centers, and a 3,500-vehicle fleet of trucks. Kierlin compensated himself modestly in business and served as a Minnesota state senator.

Ken Melrose A master strategist, he became CEO of the Toro Company in 1983 amid doubts that it could survive, refashioned its product portfolio, made it a leader in products and services for turf development and landscape management, and helped it achieve a sevenfold increase in revenue and a 25-fold increase in its stock price in 22 years.
 

2004

William Austin Founder of Starkey Laboratories, the largest hearing aid company based in the United States. As CEO, he guided the company’s growth to more than $420 million in revenues and 3,700 employees, while also establishing the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which under his direction fitted 100,000 needy children with hearing devices.

Tom Gegax Cofounder of Tires Plus, which improved the experience of tire buying by adding professional assistance and waiting-room amenities. When the company was sold in 2000, it had become a 1,600-employee, nine-state, 150-store chain with $200 million in annual sales, and its founder became a provider of guidance for growing companies.

Richard “Pinky” McNamara A rescuer of troubled enterprises. McNamara, a University of Minnesota football star, made a 36-year career of buying and resurrecting bankrupt or foreclosed-upon businesses. He became the CEO of Activar, a 600-employee, $100 million holding company. At one point, he owned and directed 25 companies at the same time.

John Pellegrene A marketing and retailing innovator, Pellegrene transformed Target Corporation’s bull’s-eye into an icon of branding, invented Dayton-Hudson Corporation’s Santabear, created the first computerized bridal registry, and promoted the Target-funded restoration in the 1990s of the Washington Monument.

Robert Sparboe He moved to Litchfield in 1954 to establish the Sparboe Chick Company with his life savings of $5,400. By the time of his death in October 2005, he had developed his company into a $260 million operation that annually sold 2.4 billion eggs laid by more than 10 million hens. He also owned a bank and an insurance agency.

 

2003

Kenneth Dahlberg War hero, inventor, entrepreneur. Dahlberg, a heavily decorated World War II “triple-ace” pilot, developed the first all-in-the-ear hearing aid and founded Dahlberg, Inc., which expanded to $100 million in revenue before being sold to Bausch & Lomb in 1994. He also developed early paging and monitoring devices. In 1995, he became a venture capitalist.

 

John Mooty A practitioner of law and a builder of businesses. He was partner for more than 50 years at the law firm of Gray Plant Mooty and 24-year chairman of International Dairy Queen, which he and partners rescued and refocused in 1970 after performing a similar turnaround at National Car Rental. He later became a developer of real estate in Arizona.

Richard Schulze A retailing paragon. Schulze, the founder and chairman of Best Buy, opened his first store in 1966 and showed a remarkable ability to adapt to changes in consumer demand. At the time of his induction, Best Buy had become an international $36 billion, 900-store retailer of consumer electronics, appliances, and recorded music and movies.

Daryl “Sid” Verdoorn The transformative top executive officer of C. H. Robinson from 1977 to 2002, he changed the company from a $150 million seller of fruits and vegetables into a $3 billion, 3,900-employee, 15,000-customer global intermodal shipping and logistics company known for its sophisticated Web-based programs.

Manny Villafana A “serial entrepreneur,” among the companies he founded were Cardiac Pacemakers, Inc. (CPI), which developed pacemakers worn by at least 2.3 million patients, and St. Jude Medical, which developed mechanical heart valves worn by 1.5 million patients at the time of his induction. Both companies provided extraordinary rewards to investors.

 

2002

Irwin Jacobs Investor and business manager, he built Genmar into the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational watercraft, with $1.1 billion in sales and 7,000 employees at the time of his induction. (Jacobs is now working to rebuild his boat business, which he discusses with writer Sven Wehrwein in the feature story beginning on page 56.) But Jacobs has been best known as an investor in underperforming public companies who awakened management groups to their obligation to deliver value to shareholders.
 

Harvey Mackay Author of six business books, professional speaker, business columnist, and a lifelong entrepreneur who turned a tiny company into the Mackay Envelope Corporation. At the time of his induction, it was a 500-employee, $100 million business. Mackay exercised community leadership that helped keep professional baseball in Minnesota.

Mahendra Nath arrived in the United States from his native India with $800 and a newly earned mechanical engineering degree. For years, he saved half his income to invest in rental properties. He became an employer of 3,300 people at 102 Burger King restaurants, 12 other casual or fine dining restaurants, two hotels, three commercial properties, and more than 1,000 apartment units.

Marilyn Carlson Nelson Businesswoman, community activist, and international business leader in travel and hospitality. She became CEO of the $7 billion Carlson Companies (later shortened to Carlson) in 1998, and implemented plans to expand. As vice chair, she arranged a merger of Carlson Travel and Wagonlit Travel, extending the company’s reach to 140 countries.

Glen Taylor In 1967, he began acquiring a Mankato printing company with 30 employees and built Taylor Corporation into an operation of 14,000 employees in 70 divisions at the time of his induction. He started the state’s first company-owned, on-site daycare center. Taylor purchased the Minnesota Timberwolves basketball team in 1994. He served for more than 10 years in the Minnesota Senate.

 

2001

Ralph Burnet Sales-minded entrepreneur and founder of Minnesota’s top home realty company, he developed Coldwell Banker Burnet into a home-selling juggernaut with more than 3,100 sales associates. He founded Burnet Realty, a predecessor company, in 1973 with a personal investment of $18,000. Later, he became a developer of Minneapolis hotels.

Dorothy Dolphin founded Dolphin Staffing, and her temporary services firm dispensed 20,000 W-2 forms a year at the time of her induction. She was also the owner of 13 fast-food restaurants and a five-branch bank with more than $150 million in assets. During much of her career, Dolphin Staffing was the largest woman-owned company in Minnesota.

 

Ron Offutt One of the world’s premier farm operators, at the time of his induction, his R. D. Offutt Company and other operations included more than 200,000 acres of potatoes and other vegetables, a 21,000-cow dairy, three potato processing plants, and an array of dealerships selling $535 million in John Deere Equipment, Volvo and Mack trucks, and new and used construction equipment.

Gerald Rauenhorst Founder in 1953 of the Opus Corporation, a premier design and construction company that in the ensuing decades built more than 2,000 commercial buildings throughout the United States, including dozens that changed the face of the Twin Cities. Opus was one of the earliest firms to unite the disparate disciplines of architecture and construction.

Win Wallin Former president and COO of Pillsbury Company, he became chairman and CEO of Medtronic in 1985 and was credited with reviving its product innovation and sales. During his six-year tenure as CEO, Medtronic’s revenues rose from $370 million to $1 billion, profits tripled, and the number of employees nearly doubled to 8,500.

 

2000

Ebba Hoffman In 1955, she was a newly widowed homemaker with two small children, an eighth-grade education, and a debt-hobbled company, Smead Manufacturing. Overcoming gender biases and aggressive competition, by the time of her death in 1999 she had expanded it into a 2,000-employee, $300-million-in-revenue, office-products powerhouse.

Luigino “Jeno” Paulucci Son of an Iron Range miner, he began working at age 10, selling groceries. Paulucci founded Chinese foods company Chun King, Inc., frozen- pizza maker Jeno’s, Inc., and Luigino’s, the maker of Michelina’s and Yu Sing foods. He later became the second-largest landowner in Florida and the developer of a planned community near Orlando.

Carl Pohlad A lifetime entrepreneur, active in business into his 90s, Pohlad was a buyer and builder of soft-drink bottlers, banks, and companies engaged in investment management and broadcasting. He also was owner of the Minnesota Twins, which he kept from leaving Minnesota in 1984. The team won two World Series championships under his ownership.

Alan “Buddy” Ruvelson A pioneer in the techniques of private-equity investing. In 1959, he received the nation’s first license to operate a small-business investment company and opened one of the nation’s first venture-capital firms. During the next 41 years, he provided funding for 63 companies and helped build Minnesota’s venture-capital industry.

Wheelock Whitney A star investment banker. As CEO of J. M. Dain and then Dain & Company, he turned a small, local investment bank into a regional giant emphasizing investment in local businesses. He was later a candidate for governor, teacher of management at the University of Minnesota, part-owner of the Minnesota Vikings, and a pioneer in providing alcoholism treatment.

 

1999

Elmer L. Andersen Business executive, public servant, civic leader. Anderson, who died at age 95 in 2004, was the long-time chairman of H. B. Fuller, a governor of Minnesota, and a newspaper owner. He was known for setting and achieving ambitious goals at Fuller, calling for it to double in size every five years. As a newspaper publisher, his favorite task was writing editorials.

Earl Bakken The inventor of the modern battery-powered heart pacemaker and cofounder—in a northeast Minneapolis garage in 1949—of one of the world’s leading medical technology companies, Medtronic. Bakken served as CEO of Medtronic, from which dozens of biomedical companies emerged, until 1976. He was senior chairman until 1989.

Curtis L. Carlson A widely proclaimed “ultra-entrepreneur” and innovator of services who was known for his salesmanship and unrelenting pursuit of opportunity. He founded and ran Carlson, one of the largest family enterprises in America, which has included Radisson Hotels & Resorts, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Country Inns & Suites, and T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants.

Edgar Hetteen The “grandfather of snowmobiling” and creator of a winter-sports industry. Hetteen, a self-described farm kid who liked to tinker, founded the companies that became Polaris and Arctic Cat. He later founded ASV, a maker of all-terrain vehicles that was named as one of the best small companies in America.

Whitney MacMillan CEO of Cargill for 18 years, when it was the world’s largest privately held company. He led Cargill to a threefold increase in employees (to 73,600) and a fivefold increase in earnings—and into steelmaking and worldwide prominence in the milling, refining, processing, and transportation of 40 agricultural products.

Earl Olson Founder of Jennie-O Foods, the world’s largest grower and processor of turkeys, he was the developer of hundreds of new products, including turkey rolls, loaves, hot dogs, and pastrami. After selling his company to Hormel in 1986, he remained Jennie-O’s chairman for 20 years, taking pride in the company’s growth to more than $1 billion in revenues.

 

One final note of achievement: Hall of Fame member Al Annexstad was one of 11 Americans to receive a 2010 Horatio Alger Award in recognition of his “personal and professional success despite humble and challenging beginnings.” Other recipients this year included retired General Tommy Franks, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Jenard Gross, president of Gross Investments. In the 63-year history of the Horatio Alger Association, only 11 Minnesotans have receive the award. Those past winners include Minnesota Business Hall of Famers Bill Austin, Curt Carlson, Richard Knowlton, Harvey Mackay, Jeno Paulucci and Carl Pohlad. Other past recipients include baseball player Henry Aaron, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, broadcaster Tom Brokaw, and actress Carol Burnett.

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