March 14, 1914
|Died||May 7, 1999 (aged 85)|
New York, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Founder of the Hess Corporation|
Owner of the New York Jets
|Children||Marlene Hess Zirin|
Constance H. Williams
John B. Hess
Hess was born on March 14, 1914, to a Jewish family in Asbury Park, New Jersey. His parents were Ethel and Mores Hess, who was a kosher butcher who had emigrated from Lithuania and—after arriving in the United States—worked as an oil delivery man in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Hess worked as a driver for his father's company and, after it went bankrupt in 1933 during the Great Depression, he reorganized the company. He built an oil terminal in Perth Amboy, New Jersey out of old oil tankers and aggressively underbid his competitors to win Federal oil contracts. He served in World War II, rising to the rank of major, and serving as the fuel supply officer for General George S. Patton, where he further developed his logistical expertise.
After the war, using a network of smaller terminals, Hess's success continued. In the late 1950s, he built his first refinery; and in 1960, he opened a chain of gas stations. In the early 1960s, he built the world's largest oil refinery at the time on St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands to take advantage of federal tax benefits. The refinery was able to secure foreign refiner status (allowing it to circumvent the federal rule that required the use of higher-cost U.S.-flagged vessels when shipping oil to the East Coast) while also receiving subsidies from the United States Department of Energy as a domestic refinery. In 1963, his company, Hess Oil and Chemical, went public. In 1969, using the proceeds from the Hess sale, he acquired the Amerada Petroleum Corporation, one of the largest producers of crude oil in the United States. As part of the purchase, he merged it with his former company, Hess Oil and Chemical, to form the Amerada Hess Corporation. Hess served as chairman and CEO of Amerada Hess until 1995.
New York Jets
In 1963, Hess was part of a consortium that bought the New York Jets which included Sonny Werblin, Philip H. Iselin, Townsend B. Martin, and Donald Lillis. His initial investment was $250,000. He bought out his partners: Werblin in 1968, the heirs of Iselin in 1977, Martin in 1981 and in 1984 became the sole owner of the club after purchasing the last quarter-share from Helen Dillon, Lillis' daughter. The Jets played in Shea Stadium in 1964 after four seasons in the Polo Grounds. In 1984 Hess moved the team to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Personal life and death
In 1947, he married Norma Wilentz. Wilentz's father was former Attorney General of New Jersey David T. Wilentz who prosecuted Bruno Richard Hauptmann in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case. They had three children: Marlene Hess Zirin, Constance H. Williams, and John B. Hess. Marlene is married to lawyer, writer, and cable TV talk show host, James D. Zirin.
In 2011, Hess was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. In 2014, the New York Jets selected Hess, along with former WR Wayne Chrebet, to be the year's inductees into its Ring of Honor.
- New York Times: "Leon Hess, Who Built a Major Oil Company and Owned the Jets, Is Dead at 85" By Gerald Eskenazi May 08, 1999
- We Are Many: Reflections on American Jewish History and Identity By Edward S Shapiro, pages 123-124, retrieved April 6, 2013
- "Leon Hess". Sports Illustrated. May 7, 1999. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- Gola, Hank (January 12, 2000). "Hess Family Hits Gusher In Jet Sale". Daily News. New York.
- "Sonny Werblin, an Impresario of New York's Sports Extravaganza, Is Dead at 81". The New York Times. November 23, 1991.
- Sandomir, Richard (January 14, 2000). "Sports Business; For Hess's Estate, It's a jets.com". The New York Times.
- Mike Freeman (October 17, 2000). "On Pro Football; New York Teams Taking Different Paths to the Same Destination". New York Times. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
- New Jersey Star Ledger: "Norma Wilentz Hess" April 22, 2010
- New York Times: "Marlene Hess, a Banking Executive, Is Married to James Zirin, a Lawyer" May 19, 1990
- "Leon Hess". New York Times. May 9, 1999. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
Peacefully on May 7, 1999 of complications from a blood disorder. Beloved husband of Norma; cherished father of Constance and Dr. Sankey Williams, Marlene Hess Zirin, and James Zirin, John and Susan Hess; adored grandfather of Elizabeth and Jennifer Williams, Peter and Margaret Friedland, Michael, David and William Hess; dear brother of Betty Gilbert, dear brother-in-law of Ruth Hess, Warren and Rhoda Wilentz and the late Robert and Jacqueline Wilentz, treasured son of the late Ethel and Mores Hess and son-inlaw of the late Lena and David T. Wilentz.
- "Leon Hess". New Jersey Hall of Fame. 2014-04-12. Retrieved 2019-08-15.
- Davis, Tina, 1974- (30 October 2015). Hess : The Last Oil Baron. Resnick-Ault, Jessica, 1980-. Hoboken, New Jersey. p. 14. ISBN 9781118923450. OCLC 922799630.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Lange, Randy. "Leon Hess, Wayne Chrebet to Join Ring of Honor". New York Jets. Retrieved 9 Jan 2015.