Irwin L. Jacobs

Last updated
Irwin L. Jacobs
Born(1941-07-15)July 15, 1941
Diedc. April 10, 2019(2019-04-10) (aged 77)
Cause of deathSuicide by gunshot
Alma mater University of Minnesota
OccupationInvestor, entrepreneur
Known forCEO of Genmar Holdings; Founder of Cable Value Network
Spouse(s)Alexandra Jacobs

Irwin L. Jacobs (July 15, 1941 – c. April 10, 2019) was an American businessman. He was the CEO of several large corporations, formerly including the now-bankrupt Genmar Holdings, boat-building company. [1] He earned the nickname "Irv the Liquidator" for his aggressive business practices in the 1970s and early 1980s. [2] In 1973, Jacobs founded COMB ("Close-out Merchandise Buyers"), a catalog-based mail-order retailer. In 1986, COMB and several cable television operators created the Cable Value Network (CVN), a pioneering television shopping channel which was later purchased by Joseph Segel's QVC. [3] Jacobs, based in Minneapolis, became wealthy by taking big stakes in Fortune 500 conglomerates, usually to unlock value by breaking them up.

Genmar Holdings, Inc. was the second largest manufacturer of recreational motor boats, founded in 1978. It was headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota with offices in Little Falls, Minnesota and Cadillac, Michigan.

Joseph Segel is an American entrepreneur. He is the founder of over 20 American companies, most notably QVC, an American television network, and the Franklin Mint, a producer of mail-order collectibles. Segel was named to the Direct Marketing Association's Hall of Fame in 1993. He has been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Electronic Retailing Association and an honorary doctorate from Drexel University.

<i>Fortune</i> 500 Annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine

The Fortune 500 is an annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks 500 of the largest United States corporations by total revenue for their respective fiscal years. The list includes publicly held companies, along with privately held companies for which revenues are publicly available. The concept of the Fortune 500 was created by Edgar P. Smith, a Fortune editor, and the first list was published in 1955. The Fortune 500 is more commonly used than its subset Fortune 100 or superset Fortune 1000.


On the morning of April 10, 2019, the bodies of Jacobs and his spouse, Alexandra, were found in the bedroom of their home. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner concluded that Jacobs had shot his wife and then himself in a murder–suicide. [4]

A murder–suicide is an act in which an individual kills one or more people before killing oneself. The combination of murder and suicide can take various forms, often linked to the first form:

Early life

Jacobs was born to a Jewish family. [5] He started his career working with his father at his business, the Northwestern Bag Company. He attended the University of Minnesota.[ citation needed ]

American Jews Ethnic group

American Jews, or Jewish Americans, are Americans who are Jews, whether by religion, ethnicity, or nationality. Today the Jewish community in the United States consists primarily of Ashkenazi Jews, who descend from diaspora Jewish populations of Central and Eastern Europe and comprise about 90-95% of the American Jewish population. Most American Ashkenazim are US-born, with a dwindling number of now-elderly earlier immigrants, as well as some more recent foreign-born immigrants.

University of Minnesota public research university in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States

The University of Minnesota is a public research university in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota. The Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses are approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) apart, and the St. Paul campus is actually in neighboring Falcon Heights. It is the oldest and largest campus within the University of Minnesota system and has the sixth-largest main campus student body in the United States, with 50,943 students in 2018-19. It is the flagship institution of the University of Minnesota System, and is organized into 19 colleges and schools, with sister campuses in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, and Rochester.


At the age of 33, Jacobs purchased the ailing Grain Belt in 1975 for $4.1 million with his company I.J. Enterprises. He tried unsuccessfully for eight months to turn around the company, which was losing nearly $200,000 per month. He then liquidated the company, selling the brand to G. Heileman Brewing Company, and profited $4 million. [6] He later sold the property that accompanied the brewery to the City of Minneapolis in 1989 for $4.85 million. [7]

Grain Belt (beer) United States historic place

Grain Belt is a brand of beer brewed in the American state of Minnesota, by the August Schell Brewing Company. The beer has been produced in a number of varieties. Grain Belt Golden was the original style introduced in 1893. The current offerings are: Grain Belt Premium, first introduced in 1947; Grain Belt Premium Light; Grain Belt Nordeast, introduced in April 7, 2010; and the newest offering, Grain Belt Lock & Dam, introduced in 2016. It was originally produced by the Minneapolis Brewing Company which formed with the merger of four smaller brewers in 1891. Soon after introduction, Grain Belt became the company's flagship product. It was brewed at the original Grain Belt brewery in Minneapolis, Minnesota until 1976. A series of other owners followed, and Schell took over the product line in 2002.

G. Heileman Brewing Company American brewing company

The G. Heileman Brewing Company of La Crosse, Wisconsin, United States, was a brewery firm that operated from 1858 to 1996. It was ultimately acquired by Stroh's, and its independent existence ceased. From 1872 until its acquisition, the brewery bore the family name of its co-founder and brewer Gottlieb Heileman.

Jacobs' next deal netted him even more money. He read about W. T. Grant filing for bankruptcy in The Wall Street Journal and decided to purchase their consumer accounts receivable. He soon after that negotiated a deal where he purchased the $276.3 million account for $44 million and 5% of first years sales. [8]

W. T. Grant or Grants was a United States-based chain of mass-merchandise stores founded by William Thomas Grant that operated from 1906 until 1976. The stores were generally of the variety store format located in downtowns.

<i>The Wall Street Journal</i> American business-focused daily broadsheet newspaper based in New York City

The Wall Street Journal is a U.S. business-focused, English-language international daily newspaper based in New York City. The Journal, along with its Asian and European editions, is published six days a week by Dow Jones & Company, a division of News Corp. The newspaper is published in the broadsheet format and online. The Journal has been printed continuously since its inception on July 8, 1889, by Charles Dow, Edward Jones, and Charles Bergstresser.

Jacobs also owned a minority share of the Minnesota Vikings, which he sold to Mike Lynn in 1991. [9]

Minnesota Vikings National Football League franchise in Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Minnesota Vikings are a professional American football team based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings joined the National Football League (NFL) as an expansion team in 1960, and first took the field for the 1961 season. The team competes in the National Football Conference (NFC) North division.

Michael Lynn, III was an American football general manager and executive. He served as the general manager of the National Football League's Minnesota Vikings from 1975 to 1990.

At the time of his death, Irwin Jacobs owned many businesses. The list included Watkins Incorporated, Jacobs Management Corp., Jacobs Industries, Inc., J.Y.J. Corp., C.O.M.B. Co., Federal Financial Corporation, FFC Realty, Watkins, Inc., Northwestern Bag Corporation, Nationwide Collection Service, Inc., 1. Jacobs Enterprises, Kodicor, Inc., Brown-Minneapolis Tank and Fabricating Co., Regional Accounts Corporation, Nationwide Accounts, Corporation, Jacobs Bag Corporation, Lawndale Industries Inc., EQC of Indiana, Inc., Touch Corporation, JMSL Acquiring Corporation, S.J. Industries, Inc., JII Air Service, Inc., P.S.T. Acquiring Corporation, Jacobs Trading, and J&D Acquisitions LLC.[ citation needed ]

Jacobs founded FLW, the parent organization of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, a series of sportfishing tours best known for its bass fishing tournaments. They were developed with an eye toward media coverage in general and television coverage in particular. [10]

Personal life

Jacobs lived on a 32-acre estate between Lake Minnetonka and Tanager Lake in the Twin Cities suburb of Orono. The house was originally built in 1939 by the son of James Ford Bell, founder of General Mills, and appeared in a few scenes of the 1972 film The Heartbreak Kid not long before he bought it at age 30 for $340,000. [11] He and his wife, Alexandra Jacobs, raised five children in the home. [11] Alexandra was an accomplished artist and philanthropist. [12] The couple collected eclectic artwork, including a vast array of African ivory purchased from a trader's collection. The Jacobses put the estate on the market in 2014 for $22 million, but it had not changed hands at the time he died in 2019. [11]

By 2019 Alexandra, Jacobs' wife of 57 years, used a wheelchair and showing signs of dementia, and he was reported to be distraught over her condition. Their daughter Sheila has cerebral palsy, and he was a major supporter of the Special Olympics, for which he once served as chairman after donating $8 million in 1991. [2]


Jacobs and his wife were found dead of gunshot wounds on a bed in their Orono home on the morning of April 10, 2019. A handgun was found next to them. The Hennepin County medical examiner concluded that Irwin Jacobs shot his wife and then himself. [4] [12]

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  1. Feyder, Susan (June 2, 2009). "Irwin Jacobs' Genmar files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy". Star Tribune .
  2. 1 2 Pink, Aiden (April 10, 2019). Businessman Irwin Jacobs, Wife Found Dead In Minnesota Mansion, The Forward . Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  3. "Jacobs Trading Company: History". Jacobs Trading Company. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  4. 1 2 John Reinan (April 12, 2019). "Medical examiner confirms: Jacobs deaths are murder-suicide". Star-Tribune . accessed April 12, 2019.
  5. Bard, Mitchell G. "Ancient Jewish History: Banking & Bankers". Jewish Virtual Library. Based on material from Encyclopaedia Judaica (2008). Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  6. The Wall Street Journal July 30, 1980.
  7. .Star Tribune. February 18, 1989.
  8. .The Wall Street Journal. July 30, 1980
  9. "Two part owners of Vikings to Sell". The Associated Press/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 17, 1991. Retrieved 26 July 2012.Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  10. FLW Outdoors: Irwin Jacobs bio
  11. 1 2 3 Lynn Underwood, "Homegazing: Inside Irwin Jacobs' retreat on Lake Minnetonka", Star Tribune, February 22, 2014.
  12. 1 2 Williams, Brandt (April 12, 2019). "Irwin Jacobs' death ruled a suicide, wife Alexandra a homicide". Minnesota Public Radio.

See also

Walsh, Paul, "Son says Irwin Jacobs struggled with health before he shot wife, then himself", Star Tribune, April 24, 2019.