Jerry Reinsdorf

By Don Birdsell

Jerry Reinsdorf was born in 1936 in Brooklyn, New York. This is where he grew up and idolized the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team. Jerry's father was a peddler of used sewing machines until 1957 when they moved to Chicago. Chicago is where Reinsdorf began to accomplish what he has done today. In 1960 he graduated from Northwestern law school and began working for the Department of Internal Revenue Service. His concentration was tax law, which in 1964 led to his idea of Balcor Inc., a real estate investment company. However, he did not start his own company right away, instead he practiced law up until 1973. At this time he founded Balcor Inc. Jerry Reinsdorf's successes have come from his long-run strategies, his knowledge, and from his dedication and commitment to business.

Reinsdorf developed the idea of Balcor Inc. when many of his high income clients were looking for investment outlets, real estate was the simplest and most lucrative. Balcor was run with the idea of the future, and with this innovation they are one of the best in discovering top locations and high quality types of property. Because Reinsdorf is a tax lawyer, Balcor invests a large sum into properties that are under construction. They invest a large sum because there are many tax shelters. In 1976 after the tax reforms, Reinsdorf and Balcor quickly shifted focus to properties with high cash flows and appreciation (Bus Week '83). What was more impressive in 1976 was the prediction that pension and profit-sharing plans would be the next wave of real estate investors. Because of this great knowledge, Reinsdorf and Balcor were the first to attract these investors.

With the success of Balcor, Reinsdorf wanted to fulfill a childhood dream, and in 1981 Jerry set up a group of investors that bought the Chicago White Sox. Even though purchasing a professional baseball team was a life long dream, Reinsdorf run the team very much like he runs his business. He was able to recognize that there was a major profit to be earned with this team. While keeping control he set up investors that helped finance the improvements of the ballpark. The ballpark was a huge tax break due to the depreciation. He also turned to the city of Chicago to give him money for renovations. Finally, he went out and purchased a few big name ballplayers for a large sum of money that the other team were not willing to pay. The renovations paid off, within two years the team set the club attendance record and generated revenues of 22 million. This was Jerry Reinsdorf at his best, his knowledge of tax law, renovations for the long-term, and his hard nose business tactics of signing high priced players all played a part in the increased profit. In 1982 Reinsdorf turned around and sold Balcor for 104 million because he saw how much profit there could be made in baseball.

Reinsdorf not only turned around the Chicago White Sox, but he did not stop there. In 1985 he then purchased the Chicago Bulls for 16 million. At this time the Bulls were only drawing 6,365 fans per game to the Chicago Stadium which held 17,339 fans (Bus Week '92). Reinsdorf saw something great in the Bulls new draft pick and decided to build the team around him. After the teams revenues began to increase, so did the salary cap for the Bulls. Reinsdorf also added a feature that the White Sox use, season tickets. This also generated revenue to the Bulls. One of the major revenue issues that Reinsdorf implemented was superstation broadcasts that give the Bulls a national following. This did not sit to well with the other owners in the NBA. However, this did not deter Reinsdorf. He did not let up, and the courts eventually rewarded Reinsdorf by agreeing with him.

Controversy was nothing new to Reinsdorf who seemed to have the idea that there are double standards when it came to business. He built the new Chicago Stadium with the help of Japanese investors. However, he voted against the selling of the Seattle Mariners to the Japanese. He also broadcasts the Bulls and the White Sox nationally, but voted against other team broadcasting nationally. Reinsdorf is an intelligent business man who is powerful enough to get whatever he wants. Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association said, "He thinks, he plans, he pays attention to detail. He pleads, he cajoles, he urges, he threatens. He's able to do almost anything he wants." (Bus Week '92). Reinsdorf even squeezed concessions from local government when he threatened to move the White Sox. He is clearly a man with ambition, power, and the knowledge of how to get what he wants.

Jerry Reinsdorf is a man who changed Chicago Sports. Reinsdorf with his knowledge and ambition has made the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago White Sox two of the most popular teams in America. What started as a dream back when he was a child in Brooklyn, led him into real estate, and then the owner of two professional sports teams. Now that he has accomplished his dream, I wonder what will be next. What ever it is look out, because he can accomplish almost anything.

Works Cited

"Jerry Reinsdorf Pulls a Double Play in Chicago." Business Week 10 Oct. 1983:53.

"The Toughest #&?!%* in Sports." Business Week 15 Jun.1992:100-104.

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