Herbert V. Kohler, Jr., a business giant that strengthened his family’s namesake manufacturing firm and brought Wisconsin onto the world golf scene by creating a course called Whistling Straits. died.
Kohler was 83 when he died on Saturday.
“His passion for life, adventure and influence inspires us all,” his family said in a statement on Sunday. “We traveled together, celebrated together and worked together. He was always involved, leaving an indelible mark on how we live our lives today and how we carry on his legacy.”
Kohler was CEO of the Kohler Company for 43 years before handing over the task to his son, David Kohler, in 2015. He has since continued as chief executive officer at the company.
During his tenure as CEO, Kohler expanded the company from a $133 million operation in 1972 to an annual operation of nearly $6 billion in 2015.
The company believes it has a vision for Herb Kohler to realize that while the company’s business includes producing plumbing fixtures, it’s really all about designing products that create pleasure for users. Under his leadership, the Kohler Company has created products that are not only functional, but create an enjoyable and memorable experience for those who use them.
In the early 1970s, “Kohler’s Bold Look” became more than a marketing slogan. The company said that under Kohler’s leadership, it has become a guiding spirit that leads the company and unites its partners.
“We have the people, the products, the focus, the resources, and the passion to pursue our mission and compete successfully,” he once told his partners.
In a Journal Sentinel story, he was described as a “striking figure—thick gray hair, bushy eyebrows, bushy beard, and gravelly voice” with a “commanding presence”.
A passion for golf, late in his life, is why the company operates two championship golf courses – nearby Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits north of Sheboygan – and a five-star, five-diamond resort at Kohler’s American Club.
Gary D’Amato, Wisconsin Golf writer and former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter and columnist, said Kohler was “transforming golf in our state.”
“Probably the most important figure in Wisconsin golf history,” D’Amato said. “We were a bridge state until we built those courses. Nobody from other parts of the country came to Wisconsin to play golf.”
In 2019, when Whistling Straits was chosen as the location for the Ryder Cup, Kohler said it was a “once in a lifetime” event for the state and estimated an economic impact of $135 million.
The Ryder Cup was postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but in 2021 it welcomed golf enthusiasts from around the world.
“We’ve put a world-class light on our golf here in the state, and golf is booming in our state,” D’Amato said. “None of this would have happened if he hadn’t built these courses.”
Kohler was born in February. 20, 1939, that Herbert Kohler Sr. and Ruth Myriam DeYoung. He was the eldest of the three. He had a sister, Ruth DeYoung Kohler II, and a brother, Frederick Cornell Kohler, both before him in death.
Kohler graduated from Yale University in 1965 after spending time at several other colleges. He started at Yale but dropped out a year later and went to Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where he studied theater and met Linda Karger, whom he married in 1961. Kohler later enrolled at Furman University in South Carolina and previously worked on the sidelines. She is returning to Yale to pursue a degree in business administration.
His grandfather, John Michael Kohler II, founded the Kohler Company in 1873, and Herbert Sr. Serving as CEO for 43 years, Herbert Jr. he remembered in interviews that he didn’t want to be a part of the family business.
But after graduating from Yale in 1965, he started working at Kohler. He was 26 years old. Kohler became president and CEO of Kohler Company in 1972.
Kohler and Karger had three children: Laura Elizabeth Kohler, Rachel DeYoung Kohler and David Karger Kohler. Kohler and Karger divorced in the early 1980s. In 1988, Kohler married Natalie Ann Black.
Special services will be made, but the company will make a tribute to Kohler for partners at a later date.
This story will be updated.
Contact Ricardo Torres at firstname.lastname@example.org. follow him on twitter @RicoReporting
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