25 Leaders Who Shaped TCB's Quarter-Century
Past CEO, U.S. Bank
Richard Davis emerged as one of the most influential players in recent Minnesota business history in his role as CEO of U.S. Bancorp from 2006 until his 2017 retirement. During that crucial stint, he engineered the bank’s growth from a regional player to the nation’s fifth-largest commercial bank. Under his leadership, revenue increased by 49 percent, jumping from $13.6 billion to $21.3 billion. He also stepped up as a highly visible and effective civic leader, playing an instrumental role in building U.S. Bank Stadium and pitching it as the host venue for the 2018 Super Bowl.
Founder and chairman, Thor Construction
When Richard Copeland founded Thor Construction in 1980, he entered a field with few, if any, black entrepreneurs—especially in Minnesota. But that didn’t deter his efforts to grow the North Minneapolis-based firm, which has since expanded to seven other states and been honored as one of the most successful minority-owned businesses in the nation. The company picked up steam in the late ’90s, snagging large contracts through organizations that support minority business development. Now Thor has almost 200 employees and a national client list that includes MGM, Target, and the University of Minnesota.
Chairman, Norwest Equity Partners
As the state’s top private equity provider, Norwest Equity Partners has, over the years, helped launch the likes of the Buca di Beppo restaurant chain and Life Time Fitness. As chairman, John Lindahl has played a crucial behind-the-scenes financial role for some of the great Minnesota success stories of the last 25 years. His influence also extends to the University of Minnesota: As a proud U of M alum, Lindahl and his wife, Nancy, chaired the fundraising campaign for the construction of TCF Bank Stadium. They have also donated to establish flexible endowed professorships.
Investing in Minnesota
by John Lindahl
As a Minnesota investment firm that has been in business since 1961, Norwest Equity Partners (NEP) has seen many changes – specifically over the last 25 years. The mid-1990s presented one of the greatest bull markets in history, and during this time, NEP was a very active, middle market buyout investor focused primarily on smaller regionally-based, manufacturing and industrial businesses. As NEP continued to grow, the size, number, geography, and diversification of industries of our investments continued to evolve.
In the early 2000s, larger and more complex deals, along with favorable capital market conditions, presented the opportunity for our firm to broaden our offering. As part of our expansion, we launched Norwest Mezzanine Partners (NMP) to serve as a key source of junior capital solutions to provide a valuable tool to augment equity investments. We also emerged as a national player (versus regional), raised larger funds, and invested broadly across industries and geographies, while continuing to invest here in Minnesota.
Over the last 25 years, NEP has invested in more than 30 Minnesota-based companies – all from diverse industries and approximately half being founder/family-owned – helping to generate billions of revenue and thousands of jobs. These companies include Avtex, Apothecary Products, Bix Produce, DCM Services, eyebobs, Lifetime Fitness, Gopher Resource, Bailiwick, Lindstrom Metric, Marco, Minnesota Rubber & Plastics, Norwesco, PeopleNet, Shock Doctor, and Wealth Enhancement Group, and others. NEP invests in Minnesota companies for their excellent leadership, strong and dedicated workforce, commitment to the community, and focus on organic and acquisitive growth, all which help to sustain growth and contribute positively to the local economy. We are proud to be part of the rich local history as well as the continued growth that lies ahead.
John Lindahl is chairman of Norwest Equity Partners.
Past president and CEO, HealthPartners
Mary Brainerd’s departure from HealthPartners last year marked the end of a 15-year stint in which she guided the nonprofit medical provider and insurer through a turbulent era of reforms and market consolidation. One of her key efforts in shaping the Twin Cities’ current medical landscape has been the successful 2012 merger with Park Nicollet, made necessary by the need to drive down delivery costs. It also cemented HealthPartners’ position among the leading health systems in the metro area.
Founder, chairman, and CEO, Life Time
A vision to reimagine what gyms and health clubs could be was a home run for Bahram Akradi, an Iranian immigrant who persuaded the financial powers-that-be in the early 1990s to back his idea of using customer service and a vastly expanded menu of services to reshape the fitness marketplace. By 2015, Life Time had done just that in Minnesota and elsewhere, generating revenue of $1.3 billion and boasting 24,000 employees, before being purchased for $4 billion by its current private equity owners. Akradi is still at the helm of the newly private company, working on ways to integrate health, wellness, nutrition, and physical training into his business model.
Marilyn Carlson Nelson
Past CEO, Carlson Cos.
Perhaps the most successful woman in Minnesota business history, Marilyn Carlson Nelson expanded her influence far beyond the executive suite of family-owned Carlson Cos., which she occupied for 10 years starting in 1998. Taking over from her father, Curt, Carlson Nelson probably would have secured her place in Twin Cities business lore by growing the hotel and travel company’s sales from $18 billion to $40 billion. But it was her emergence as a cultural and civic leader, such as her stewardship of the Minnesota Orchestra and helping land the 2018 Super Bowl, that truly cemented her legacy.
The Urgency of Rethinking How Business Gives Back
by Marilyn Carlson Nelson
As Twin Cities Business celebrates 25 years, our company, Carlson, is celebrating 80 years since our founding. This is an important milestone, as only 13 percent of family businesses make it to the third generation. Our business is being led by the third and is now busily working to integrate the fourth.
When my father retired, promoting me to CEO in 1998, this was his advice: “Do not do what I did; seek what I sought.” Sustainability has been our goal since 1938.
This could have been the advice of the Twin Cities businessmen who created the Minnesota Keystone Program in 1976, which recognizes companies that donate 2 percent of their pre-tax earnings to the community. Their intent was to “sustain Minnesota’s spirit of generosity and sense of community.” Now, 42 years later, this generosity of spirit has been institutionalized. But it must be continuously nurtured. Nearly 200 companies are members today.
This model of corporate philanthropy is the envy of communities across the nation, and most importantly has sustained a quality of life that has earned us top spots on “Best Places to Live” lists for many years.
But it is no longer sufficient. Companies need to do more than just reduce any negative impact; we must reassess how we engage with our community. It is clear that business increasingly is being looked at as an agent of change. According to the Trust Barometer, 64 percent of people believe a company can take actions that both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions in the communities where they operate.
Do local companies believe this to be true? Ask Brian Cornell, CEO of Target, who is co-chairing the campaign for the Northside Achievement Zone; Ed Bastian and Delta Air Lines for taking a stand on gun control; or Carlson Wagonlit for leading the way in the fight against human trafficking.
This is an important change. According to Weber Shandwick, 47 percent of millennials believe CEOs have a responsibility to speak up about issues that are important to society. When, where, and how to engage is the challenge that businesses face.
These insights about business as a force for good are new to some, but in Minnesota this is not a new idea, but rather an evolution of our definition of corporate citizenship.
Marilyn Carlson Nelson is retired CEO of Carlson Companies.
Past CEO, Land O’Lakes Inc.
After Chris Policinski doubled the revenue of Land O’Lakes during his 13-year tenure as CEO, the farmer-owned dairy cooperative announced in June that he was taking early retirement at age 58. While that move came as something of a surprise, it also prompted an assessment of his accomplishments as one the Minnesota food industry’s top players. Policinski oversaw spectacular growth: Annual sales are now $14 billion, landing it just outside Fortune’s 200 biggest companies. He also oversaw its biggest-ever merger in the 2015 combination with Iowa-based crop protection, seed, and crop nutrient sales firm United Suppliers.
Chairman, Coldwell Banker Burnet Realty
Few Minnesota-based business titans can be said to reflect the state’s cultural and social priorities as well as Ralph Burnet. After pioneering the luxury home sales niche in the 1980s, he built Burnet Realty into one of the nation’s premier residential brokerages. But it’s through his commitment to the arts (his board stewardship at the Walker Art Center, for example) and philanthropy that his cultural cachet has risen even more. He also created two of the region’s most distinctive hotels, the W Foshay and Chambers. Last year he was named to the Hall of Fame of the Shenehon Center for Real Estate at St. Thomas University.
Chairman, Davisco Foods International
Reference a true Horatio Alger story in Minnesota and you’re probably talking about Mark Davis, founder and chairman of family-owned Davisco Foods International—so much so, in fact, that in 2016, Davis was named a member of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, which honors business leaders who have triumphed over adversity. Davis’ story has humble roots as the son of a creamery owner in St. Peter. He earned a degree at Mankato State University and grew his father’s business into a $1.2 billion enterprise, which now produces 1 million pounds of cheese a day. He retired as CEO of Davisco in 2012.
Public relations firm Padilla has long since outgrown its roots as Minneapolis-based Padilla Speer Beardsley, and it has the quiet but effective “servant leadership” of longtime CEO Lynn Casey to thank for the smooth nature of that growth. Her 16 years at the helm have seen the local favorite branch out into a national-level branding and communications enterprise due to some very significant acquisitions, including the 2013 buy of Virginia-based CRT/tanaka, which in effect doubled the agency’s size. Managing that expansion has necessitated a steady hand, provided by Casey, who also serves on the board of the University of Minnesota Foundation.
Chair, Marvin Cos.
In her 20-year tenure as president of Marvin Windows and Doors, Susan Marvin, a third-generation leader of the family company, helped grow the iconic Warroad manufacturer from a single location with a few hundred employees to 12 plants around the country with more than 5,500 workers. That nailed down her place as one of the most successful female leaders in Minnesota business. Perhaps her most impressive feat, however, was guiding Marvin through the recession without resorting to layoffs, despite the crash in the housing and construction markets. (Marvin instead instituted temporary pay cuts.) Meanwhile, Marvin kept rolling out new products so it was well-positioned for the recovery.
The Next Generation: From Options to Experience
by Susan Marvin
My generation had the privilege of leading the Marvin Cos. for much of the last 25 years. The change during that time was tremendous and varied, but in hindsight, centered on two primary factors: demographics and technology. Media choices back then were fairly simple compared to today. TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, billboard, and direct mail. It was the creative use of those options that caused the explosion in advertising activity in Minnesota.
When I first joined Marvin Windows and Doors, the baby boomer generation’s needs and desires guided much of what we brought to market. Ambitious, and often guided by a “live to work” mantra, baby boomers sought a proliferation of choices. Design and color options, and the ability to “have it your way” were essential and manifest across products and services, well beyond windows and doors.
And suddenly we were able to deliver on those demands because technology enabled us to do so more efficiently and cost-effectively than ever before. Technology has empowered advances across every aspect of the building industry. It has facilitated process improvements, speed, and functionality in production, material management, logistics, human resources, finance, IT, marketing, customer service—the list goes on.
Undoubtedly, the same will be true going forward: Demographics will shape change and technology will advance it. As I look ahead, the difference will be the magnitude of change and the speed at which we experience advances. It will be exponential.
Millennials now drive that change—and in a very different direction. Often categorized as tech-savvy and open-minded (and occasionally entitled), millennials are focused on something slightly less tangible than boomers’ goals: the experience. This generation is de-emphasizing size and investing in an experience in their homes, with features such as walls of glass to bring the outdoors in, automation for everything from entertainment to security, sensors to monitor performance, and enthusiasm for shared solar gardens. Millennials are focused on enhancing the overall experience in their homes rather than simply the functionality that technology provides.
Minnesota is uniquely well-positioned to embrace the opportunities presented by shifting demographics and technological advancements. Economic diversity in the state helps sustain a strong economy, and our educational system produces the horsepower to fuel it. As millennials step away from “living to work” and lean in to “working with purpose,” Minnesota’s leaders must advance their understanding of generational differences and prepare to rapidly deploy technology that will serve these evolving consumers—and lead us forward.
Susan Marvin is chair of the board of the Marvin Companies.
Past CEO, UnitedHealth Group
Bill McGuire’s legacy as a shaper of the Minnesota business universe could easily have ended in 2006; after spending 15 years building UnitedHealth Group into the nation’s second-largest managed care provider, he retired as CEO amid allegations of a personal enrichment scheme involving backdated stock options. But McGuire didn’t allow that to be the final word on his local business career. He paid a fine and reached a costly settlement, then reinvented himself as the owner of the Minnesota United FC soccer club, engineering its acceptance into Major League Soccer and building a landmark stadium in St. Paul that the team will move into in 2019.
Past CEO, Target Corp.
When Bob Ulrich took over as CEO of Dayton Hudson Corp. in 1994, Target stores were just one of its divisions, along with Dayton’s, Hudson’s, Marshall Field’s, and Mervyn’s. Ten years later, all except Target had been sold off—indeed, in 2000, Ulrich changed the parent company’s name to Target Corp. to reflect its complete focus on building the discount retailer. Ulrich, who worked his way up from Dayton’s merchandiser in 1967, is largely responsible for the period of Target’s greatest success, turning the retailer into a dynamic and now ubiquitous national brand that owns the “edgy” and “upscale” end of the discount retail universe.
Virginia “Ginny” Morris
Chair and CEO, Hubbard Radio
As a member of a legendary broadcasting family, Virginia “Ginny” Morris could say that she has the media business in her blood. But it took far more than being the daughter of Hubbard Broadcasting CEO Stanley S. Hubbard to accomplish what she has done for the family’s radio business. She took over as station manager of KSTP-AM in 1990 and has since built Hubbard Radio into a national presence in the terrestrial radio market through a pair of bold acquisitions in 2011 and 2013. Those deals, totaling $590 million, added 27 stations to Hubbard Radio’s portfolio and expanded its presence into six major U.S. markets.
Co-founder, past CEO, Carmichael Lynch
If one person could be said to epitomize the special place Minneapolis carved out in the advertising industry in the 1970s and ’80s, it is Lee Lynch, co-founder and longtime CEO of Carmichael Lynch. He and Jack Carmichael started a small advertising agency in 1962, and by the time of its sale in 2005, they had built it into a $45 million enterprise. Lynch is also emblematic of the Minnesota “creative class”—out front on civic issues, dedicated to bringing vibrancy to the city’s arts scene, and politically involved—setting an example for a generation of Minneapolis creatives to come.
Beyond Minnesota Cute
by Lee Lynch
It’s hard for me to delineate 25 years ago from the 35 before that. And sometimes I can’t remember what happened last year. So I looked for a physical clue to 25 years ago—it was the telephone. I traded in my satellite phone the size of a brick for my first flip-phone.
Media choices back then were fairly simple compared to today. TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, billboard, and direct mail. It was the creative use of those options that caused the explosion in advertising activity in Minnesota.
They called it “Minnesota cute,” a style of advertising in all media that began sweeping the national advertising award shows. Led by Fallon McElligott Rice, Carmichael Lynch, and Martin Williams, national acclaim turned into national advertising accounts. Porsche, Time Inc., Harley-Davidson, Ikea, and BMW are just a few of the national brands that flocked to the Twin Cities for its engaging and often humorous ads and commercials.
Over the years, the creative mystique endured, and while mainline “full service” advertising agencies prospered, clients began shifting some tasks to highly niched digital groups, creative boutiques, and public relations firms.
Old brand-name agencies like Campbell Mithun had to fight for business with new names like Pocket Hercules, Periscope, Solve, and Mono. Publicly held national and international agencies went on a buying binge and scooped up a number of local agencies, promising media clout and international connections.
The internet and the tools of social marketing have had a profound impact on the makeup of agencies. A 200- to 300-employee firm could have 30 to 40 percent of its staff engaged in social marketing. Traditional department titles morphed into “consumer involvement group,” “content strategy,” “social engagement,” and “UX architect.” My old title, “co-founder,” would probably be “co-inseminator.”
In addition to advertising brands coming to Minnesota from other markets, we have been blessed with major national advertisers here in the Twin Cities: Target, Best Buy, 3M, UnitedHealth, U.S. Bank, and General Mills, to name a few.
There are more than 2,500 professionals working in Minnesota agencies today, along with the thousands of advertising and marketing professionals working in-house for clients. This is a huge infrastructure of talent. Minnesota has an abundance of great homegrown talent, and many more have moved here because of the overall creative climate and quality of life, combined with a low cost of living and recreation options. The future bodes well for the advertising industry.
Lee Lynch is co-founder of Carmichael Lynch and author of Amazing MN.
Founder and chairman, Taylor Corp.
Few Minnesota business leaders can claim to have had a bigger impact on the state in the last 25 years than Glen Taylor, founder and chairman of his family-owned firm based in Mankato. Under Taylor’s guidance, it grew into one of the top three graphics communications firms in North America and one of the most successful corporate growth stories in Minnesota history. But it is two of his other interests that have made a more public impression: his purchases of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx basketball franchises, and the Star Tribune newspaper, for which he has provided stable ownership after its emergence from a 2009 bankruptcy.
Past chief marketing officer, Target Corp.
From 1988 through his retirement in 2000, John Pellegrene was frequently referred to as Target Stores’ “marketing guru.” If a guru is defined as a person who shapes and influences those around him, then indeed it’s an appropriate term, because Pellegrene’s innovations for the discount chain reshaped the way retailers of all stripes connected with audiences. His efforts in tandem with longtime Target CEO Bob Ulrich burnished Target’s image among the buying public as the bright and hip alternative to stodgy competitors Walmart and Kmart—and in so doing, established the importance of the “cool factor” for all mass-market retailers.
Past CEO, Northwest Airlines/ Delta Air Lines
Richard Anderson will forever be known as the man behind the Northwest/Delta merger—the 2008 transaction in which the iconic Minnesota company was merged with Atlanta-based Delta in a bid to rebuild both after bankruptcy. In his 14 years at Northwest, including as CEO from 2001 to 2004, Anderson built a reputation as a shrewd tactician who understood his business at both the macro and micro levels. With NWA in the fold, he earned his place in aviation history, driving Delta from a stodgy also-ran to the most profitable, innovative, and operationally efficient carrier in the world.
Sustaining Our Status as a Hub City
by Richard Anderson
The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has evolved into one of the few big, successful hub airports in the U.S. In 1990, prior airline deregulation, MSP had far fewer international flights and tended to serve a more limited area of the Upper Midwest. Our terminal was dated, and we had far fewer flights and destinations.
In the last 25 years, the Metropolitan Airports Commission and the State of Minnesota have made the right strategic decisions to grow and modernize our airport, providing connections to cities around the world. The 2010 Strategic Plan was written in the mid-1990s, when the Minnesota Legislature decided not to move the airport to Hastings. The 2010 plan was completed on budget and beat its deadline, and included a new runway, replacement of all the runways and taxiways, reconstruction of the Humphrey Terminal, significant expansion of the Lindbergh Terminal, light rail service to the airport, and a massive modernization of customer amenities. That strategy has made MSP a top JD Power-rated airport nationwide.
Many U.S. cities no longer have hub airports, so the Twin Cities are fortunate to have successfully navigated deregulation and industry consolidation. But we must continue to wisely invest and grow service for the metro area and all of Minnesota.
The MAC is near completion on a new parking garage and on-site hotel, and should begin planning additional gate capacity to support future growth. The Humphrey Terminal has been a big success in attracting a significant number of new airlines (to MSP) that have expanded options for consumers. The Lindbergh Terminal requires continued investment to keep the facility at its top-tier status and to accommodate growing passenger volumes.
The MAC and the state have provided fine leadership, over many years, to make MSP a top airport in the world. That work must continue unabated with a long-term strategic view and a commitment to significant investments in infrastructure.
Richard Anderson, former CEO of Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines, is now president and CEO of Amtrak. He returns to the Twin Cities frequently.
M.A. “Mort” Mortenson Jr.
Past chairman, M.A. Mortenson Co.
M.A. “Mort” Mortenson Jr. took over his father’s successful but relatively small construction business in 1969; by the time of his retirement in 2015, he had parlayed it into a nearly $4 billion behemoth with around 3,800 employees. Its presence in the Twin Cities market is indelible and the site of some of the firm’s highest-profile projects, such as U.S. Bank Stadium. But Mortenson’s ability to see beyond the up-and-down cycles of the real estate market also marked his tenure as leader: An example is his move into the wind power construction market, where Mortenson has quickly become a top player.
Founder, past CEO and Chairman, Best Buy
Richard Schulze’s and Best Buy’s story is the stuff of legend, as he grew it into one of the nation’s most recognized and successful retailers. Beginning in 1966 with a single Sound of Music store in Roseville, Schulze parlayed it into what had become by the early 1990s the second-largest chain of electronics retailers in the U.S. He served as Best Buy’s CEO until 2002; his later years as a board member were marked by financial struggle and a proposed takeover bid that never materialized. But Best Buy’s reemergence as one of the nation’s few big-box survivors further validates Schulze’s legacy and the sustainability of what he built.
Dr. John Noseworthy
President and CEO, Mayo Clinic
When Dr. John Noseworthy announced his decision to retire as president and CEO of the Mayo Clinic at the end of 2018, the institution put out a list of his accomplishments during nine years at its helm: A ranking as the top hospital in the nation by U.S. News & World Report; growing revenues from $7.9 billion in 2010 to $12 billion in 2017; increasing the number of patients from 1 million in 2010 to more than 1.3 million in 2016. Equally important for the state’s med-tech and bio-tech sectors, Noseworthy changed Mayo’s policies to encourage entrepreneurism among its medical researchers. He will be remembered long after his tenure ends.
Doug Baker Jr.
Chairman and CEO, Ecolab
Doug Baker Jr.’s impact on Minnesota’s business scene can been measured both in terms of financial achievement and corporate culture. As an astute CEO, he took Ecolab’s revenues from $3.8 billion to $13.2 billion, building it into a major international player employing 48,000 people in more than 170 countries. In the meantime, he has been tirelessly promoting corporate responsibility, making Ecolab not only successful but also admired for its efforts to increase the number of women in high-ranking positions and to reduce global water consumption. Baker also stands as one of the biggest business community boosters of growth in downtown St. Paul.
Chuck Denny Jr.
Past CEO, ADC Telecommunications
Chuck Denny Jr. has left a sizable mark on Minnesota technology, with a long and distinguished career in both business and philanthropy. That career included top leadership roles at Honeywell, where he worked from 1959 to 1970, and ADC Telecommunications, his employer from 1970 until his retirement in 1991. During his leadership of ADC, Denny vaulted the Eden Prairie firm into an international telecommunications player, partly by recognizing early the potential of the internet service industry. His business foresight and technological acumen earned him a well-deserved spot in the Minnesota Science and Technology Hall of Fame in 1997.
Past CEO, Medtronic
Bill George firmly put his stamp on Minnesota’s business history in the late 1990s and early 2000s when, as Medtronic CEO, he responded to a slowdown in the company’s organic growth by pulling off a series of bold acquisitions, making a $13 billion bet it could propel the Fridley medical device company to a new level. Those moves indeed transformed what had once been a much-admired mid-sized firm into one of the world’s leading medical technology companies, expanding its playing field from pacemaker and defibrillators to implantable devices used in spinal surgery, heart surgery, and diabetes treatment.
Past chairman and CEO, Wells Fargo Bank Minnesota
After a 38-year career at Wells Fargo Minnesota and its predecessor, locally based Norwest Bank, Jim Campbell retired from banking in 2002. Since then, he has carved out another kind of lasting imprint on Minnesota business through active corporate governance as a board member. Campbell has provided guidance to such family-run concerns as Marvin Companies, Cretex Cos., and Bailey Nurseries, as well as nonprofits such as the University of Minnesota Foundation, the Greater Twin Cities United Way, and Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
Co-founder and CEO, Fallon
Pat Fallon’s initial impact on the Minneapolis advertising scene came with a splash in 1981, when the firm he co-founded, Fallon McElligott Rice, hung out its shingle with a provocative full-page ad in the Minneapolis Tribune declaring they would “outsmart” the competition. It was a shot across the bow of the established ad agencies on the coasts, where creativity had taken a back seat to pure spending power. The gambit worked—Fallon’s upstart shop soon was named Ad Age’s “Agency of the Year.” He served as its CEO until 2008 and the following year was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame. Fallon died of a stroke in 2015 at age 70.
President and CEO, Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce
Early in his career, Todd Klingel was familiar to a generation of local journalists as an exec with the publishing firm MCP Inc., where he helped launch the Twin Cities Reader and CityBusiness. But it turned out his true calling was business advocacy, at which he excelled during his 13 years as president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce. On his watch, the chamber emphasized the “regional” through working partnerships with other metro-area chambers. Klingel was also known for working with the Minneapolis Public Schools on mentorship efforts. He died in 2016 at age 63, months after his retirement.
President, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
The untimely passing of David Olson in 2014 at age 57 interrupted a stellar 23-year run as Minnesota Chamber president. Praised as a unifying force among the state’s various business advocacy voices, Olson was credited for democratizing the state chamber by listening equally to its big business players and its smaller grassroots members. Perhaps as a result, the group routinely logged solid member retention rates—leading all state chambers year after year during his tenure. In his work advancing business causes at the Minnesota Legislature, Olson counted workers’ compensation reform and dedicated transportation funding among his top achievements.
Founder and chairman, Olson
Much-admired ad man John Olson was well-known for his charismatic personality, big parties, and talents that included music and poetry. But foremost among his interests was a determination to position his agency as a dominant player in the emerging digital media age. He was successful: By the time of its 2010 acquisition of Denali Marketing, the Olson shop was logging revenues of $31 million with a client list including Converse, Northwestern Mutual, and Target. Three years later, after Olson’s death from cancer at age 56, his once-small firm had become the largest independent ad agency in Minnesota, achieving annual revenue of about $91 million.
Founder and CEO, Aveda Corp.
In Horst Rechelbacher, best known simply as “Horst,” the Twin Cities can claim as its own a one-of-a-kind entrepreneur who spotted emerging consumer preferences for natural ingredients very early and built that insight into a worldwide cosmetics empire. He was born in Austria and ended up in Minnesota by chance, but it was here that he found the inspiration to create Aveda Corp. and nurture it into a beauty industry phenomenon worth a reported $300 million when it was sold to EstÃ©e Lauder in 1997. Before his death in 2014 at 72, Horst had also established a second health and beauty company, Intelligent Nutrients, also based on natural ingredients.
Winston “Win” Wallin
CEO, Medtronic Corp.
When Winston “Win” Wallin bolted from his executive post at Pillsbury Corp. in 1984 after being passed over for CEO, he opted to lead the then-struggling medical device maker Medtronic. The rest is Minnesota history. He is credited with stabilizing the company and laying the foundation for its expansion into the world’s biggest med-tech concern under successor Bill George. But by the time of his death in 2010 at age 84, Wallin may have been even better regarded as a philanthropist who raised millions of dollars to send promising Minnesota public school students from low-income families to college, as well as a prodigious fundraiser for the University of Minnesota.