Minnesota Business Icon Irwin Jacobs, Wife Alexandra Found Dead in Orono Home
Irwin Jacobs, 2010.

Minnesota Business Icon Irwin Jacobs, Wife Alexandra Found Dead in Orono Home

Jacobs was known for decades of deals as a corporate raider. Details on the cause of the deaths have not yet been disclosed by police.

For an update on this story, click here.

On Wednesday morning, police found two people dead at the Orono home of Minnesota business icon Irwin Jacobs on Lake Minnetonka. The Star Tribune, citing a family friend, confirmed the dead were Jacobs and his wife of 57 years, Alexandra, and described the deaths as an apparent murder/suicide. Alexandra Jacobs had reportedly been battling health issues. Both were 77 years old.

A statement from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office confirmed the deaths of a male and a female. The two people were found in bed with a handgun.

Jacobs was known in the 1970s and 1980s as a corporate raider and was sometimes referred to as “Irv the Liquidator.” In 1975 Jacobs acquired the then-struggling Grain Belt beer company. Jacobs sold the brands to the Wisconsin-based G. Heileman Brewing crew and auctioned off the equipment. The city of Minneapolis bought the brewery from Jacobs in the late 1980s; the historic property was later redeveloped by Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies.

Jacobs founded and led Minneapolis-based Genmar Holdings Inc., which was once the largest manufacturer of boats in the U.S. When the Great Recession hit, the company filed Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy in 2009. However, it ultimately became a Chapter 7 liquidation of the company. Many of Genmar’s brands were sold off to a California-based private equity firm.

Jacobs was founder, president and CEO of Hopkins-based Jacobs Trading Co., a buyer and seller of closeout retail inventories. The company’s roots went back to the 1960s when Jacobs got his start in the closeout business. In 2009, the company relocated and expanded to a 300,000 square foot office and warehouse facility in Hopkins. The Jacobs family still owns J.R. Watkins, maker of spices and other household. A portion of the company was sold last year to a private equity firm. Jacobs' son Mark runs the Winona-based firm. 

Irwin and Alexandra Jacobs are listed as taxpayers on the Orono home, which sits on a 20-acre site and has an assessed value of $6.3 million according to Hennepin County property tax records.