Arthur Michael Wirtz
January 23, 1901
|Died||July 21, 1983 (aged 82)|
|Education||University of Michigan|
|Children||4, including Bill Wirtz|
Arthur Michael Wirtz (January 23, 1901 – July 21, 1983) was an American entrepreneur. He was the founder of Wirtz Corporation, a holding company that owned Chicago Stadium, the Bismarck Hotel in Chicago, the Chicago Black Hawks, and the Chicago Bulls. He was the father of the late Black Hawks owner Bill Wirtz, and grandfather of current Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz.
Early life and education
After school, he worked as a commercial leasing broker with fellow graduate Arthur Rubloff. In 1929, he partnered with grain trader and real estate investor, James E. Norris, who was impressed with how Wirtz handled one of his real estate transactions. During the Great Depression, the Wirtz-Norris partnership began to purchase arenas at much reduced prices. In 1933, they purchased the Olympia Stadium in Detroit, Michigan and its hockey franchise, the Detroit Falcons, which they renamed the Detroit Red Wings for $100.000. In 1935, they purchased the Chicago Stadium. Wirtz was able fill his stadiums after securing and booking the Hollywood Ice Revue produced by and starring Olympic ice skating champion Sonja Henie. He used the proceeds to pay off the mortgage on the Chicago Stadium and also purchase Madison Square Garden in New York City and the St. Louis Arena. In 1946, he and James D. Norris helped Bill Tobin purchase the nearly bankrupt Chicago Blackhawks. Wirtz continued to help run the Red Wings. In summer of 1951, Arthur Wirtz left Detroit to join the (Chicago) board of directors. In 1949, he and Jim Morris (the son of James) founded the International Boxing Club which presided over 47 of 51 championships through 1955. As Wirtz and Norris had control over most of the major sporting venues east of the Mississippi, federal authorities ended their boxing monopoly in 1958 and forced them to sell Madison Square garden. In 1972, partnered with Lester Crown from team founder Dick Klein and purchased a controlling stake in the Chicago Bulls In 1974, he lost a lawsuit brought by Milwaukee real estate magnate Marvin Fishman accusing him of illegally preventing Fishman's purchase of the Bulls.
Wirtz was an important showbiz figure with his presentation of the Sonja Henie Ice Show, which toured arenas for many years. He was also involved with the Henie-produced ice shows which played the Center Theatre at Rockefeller Center in New York for several seasons. Wirtz took over the ownership of Ice Follies and Holiday on Ice, which he later sold to Irvin and Kenneth Feld.
Personal life and death
In 1926, he married Virginia Wirtz; they had four children: William Wirtz; Michael Wirtz; Cynthia Wirtz MacArthur; and Elizabeth Wirtz. Arthur Wirtz died of cancer on July 21, 1983, at age 82 in his Chicago home. Services were held at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago.
Awards and achievements
- 1936, 1937, 1943, 1950, Stanley Cup Championship (Detroit)
- 1961 Stanley Cup Championship (Chicago)
- Hockey Hall of Fame, inducted 1971
- Chicagoan of the Year, 1977 
- Chicago Tribune: "Arthur Wirtz, Multimillionaire Sports, Real Estate Magnate" July 22, 1983
- "Wirtz, Arthur -- Biography -- Honoured Builder -- Legends of Hockey". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
- Arthur Wirtz at the Internet Broadway Database
- Biographical information and career statistics from Legends of Hockey
- Picture of Arthur M. Wirtz's Name on the 1950 Stanley Cup Plaque
- Picture of Arthur M. Wirtz's Name on the 1961 Stanley Cup Plaque
- Arthur Wirtz at Find a Grave