Leon Hess

Last updated
Leon Hess
Hess lg.jpg
Hess during the 1980's
Leon Hess

(1914-03-14)March 14, 1914
DiedMay 7, 1999(1999-05-07) (aged 85)
NationalityUnited States
OccupationFounder of the Hess Corporation
Owner of the New York Jets
Spouse(s)Norma Wilentz
ChildrenMarlene Hess Zirin
Constance H. Williams
John B. Hess

Leon Hess (March 14, 1914 May 7, 1999) was the founder of the Hess Corporation and the owner of the New York Jets.


Early life

Hess was born on March 14, 1914, [1] to a Jewish family [2] in Asbury Park, New Jersey. His parents were Ethel and Mores Hess, who was a kosher butcher who had emigrated from Lithuania [1] and—after arriving in the United States—worked as an oil delivery man in Asbury Park, New Jersey. [1] [3] 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. [1] 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. [1] 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. [1]


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. [1] 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. [1] In 1963, his company, Hess Oil and Chemical, went public. [1] 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. [4] His initial investment was $250,000. [1] He bought out his partners: Werblin in 1968, [5] the heirs of Iselin in 1977, Martin in 1981 [6] and in 1984 became the sole owner of the club after purchasing the last quarter-share from Helen Dillon, Lillis' daughter. [4] 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. [7]

Personal life and death

In 1947, he married Norma Wilentz. [1] [8] Wilentz's father was former Attorney General of New Jersey David T. Wilentz who prosecuted Bruno Richard Hauptmann in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case. [1] They had three children: Marlene Hess Zirin, Constance H. Williams, and John B. Hess. [1] Marlene is married to lawyer, writer, and cable TV talk show host, James D. Zirin. [9]

Hess died at Lenox Hill Hospital on May 7, 1999, from a "blood disease". [3] [10]


In 2011, Hess was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. [11] [12] 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. [13]

The Leon Hess Business School [14] at Monmouth University and the Leon and Norma Hess Center for Science and Medicine of the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City [15] [16] were named for him.

Related Research Articles

New York Jets National Football League franchise in East Rutherford, New Jersey

The New York Jets are a professional American football team based in the New York metropolitan area. The Jets compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's American Football Conference (AFC) East division. The Jets play their home games at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, 5 miles (8.0 km) west of New York City. The team is headquartered in Florham Park, New Jersey. The franchise is legally organized as a limited liability company under the name New York Jets, LLC.

Asbury Park, New Jersey City in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States

Asbury Park is a beachfront city in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States, located on the Jersey Shore and part of the New York City Metropolitan Area.

David Abraham "Sonny" Werblin was a prominent entertainment industry executive and sports impresario who was an owner of the New York Jets and chairman of Madison Square Garden, and who built and managed the Meadowlands Sports Complex.

Matt Snell is a retired professional football player who played for the New York Jets. He was Jets' owner Sonny Werblin's first coup, prior to his 1965 acquisition of Joe Namath. A powerful fullback out of Ohio State University, Snell's 1964 signing jolted the crosstown Giants, who didn't draft Snell until the fourth round, and offered him a fraction of what the Jets gave him as their first-round choice.

Wayne Chrebet American football player

Wayne Chrebet is a former American football wide receiver who played 11 seasons for the New York Jets of the National Football League from 1995 to 2005.

Hess Corporation American global energy company

Hess Corporation is an American global independent energy company involved in the exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas. It was formed by the merger of Hess Oil and Chemical and Amerada Petroleum in 1968. Leon Hess served as CEO from the early 1960s through 1995, after which his son John B Hess succeeded him as chairman and CEO.

Port Reading Refinery

Port Reading Refinery, also known as Hess Refinery(photo), was an oil refinery located in Perth Amboy and Port Reading, New Jersey. It was constructed by Hess Oil under Leon Hess in 1958. It is a simple refinery which further processes other refinery's product which begins with heavy sour crude. It is owned by the Hess Corporation, refiners of Hess brand gasoline. The refinery itself has outlets that connect with Arthur Kill, enabling oil barges to make passage into the refinery's commons. The refinery had a neon red "HESS" sign on its cracking unit which was removed in December, 2013 after the property was sold. The refinery was closed in 2013.

John Barnett Hess is the CEO of Hess Corporation.

2000 New York Jets season 2000 season of NFL team New York Jets

The 2000 New York Jets season was the 41st season for the team, and the 31st in the National Football League. It was also their first under the ownership of Woody and Christopher Johnson, who purchased the team in January 2000 from the estate of former owner Leon Hess.

Constance H. Williams

Constance H. Williams is an American politician who served as a Democratic member of the Pennsylvania State Senate for the 17th District, from 2001 to 2009. She previously represented the 149th district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1997 to 2001. On June 23, 2021, President Joe Biden nominated her for member of the National Council on the Arts, an advisory board to the chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts.

David Theodore Wilentz was the Attorney General of New Jersey from 1934 to 1944. In 1935 he successfully prosecuted Bruno Hauptmann in the Lindbergh kidnapping trial. He was the father of Robert Wilentz, Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1979 to 1996, as well as Norma Hess, wife of Leon Hess, founder of Hess Corporation and Warren Wilentz

Triton Energy

Triton Energy Limited (NYSE: OIL) was one of the largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in the United States. Triton was founded in Dallas, Texas by E.R. Wiley in 1962, and had total proved reserves of almost 300 million barrels of oil equivalent when Amerada Hess Corporation purchased it in 2001 for $3.2 billion. At the time, Triton had operations in North and South America, West Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Peter Hood Ballantine Cumming was an executive in several firms and served as Mayor of Rumson, New Jersey from 1950 to 1951.

Hess Oil and Chemical Corporation was a company begun in the 1930s by Leon Hess of New Jersey to distribute heating oil. It expanded over the years to include refining and marketing of heating oil and other petroleum products through terminals and gasoline stations. In 1968, Hess Oil and Chemical Corporation merged with Amerada Petroleum Corporation into Amerada Hess Corporation. Since 2006, the merged company has been called Hess Corporation. Before the merger, Hess Oil and Chemical developed the Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corporation (HOVIC) Refinery on St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands, at the time the largest oil refinery in the world. After 1998 the refinery built by HOVIC operated under the name HOVENSA. It is a joint venture with PDVSA and is 50% owned by Hess Corporation. HOVENSA announced plans to close later on in the year on January 18, 2012.

Philip H. Iselin was a New York City women's apparel manufacturer who was a shareholder and President of the New York Jets football team and Chairman of Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, New Jersey. He was a member of the original Board of Directors that bought the New York Titans in 1963 and renamed the franchise the Jets. In 1969, he succeeded Sonny Werblin as President of the Jets.

Alaska v. Amerada Hess et al., officially known as State v. Amerada Hess et al. (1JU-77-877) was a 15-year-long civil lawsuit levied by the state of Alaska against 17 of the world's largest oil companies for underpayment of oil production royalties. The case was named after Amerada Hess, the first company in the alphabetical list of defendants. The case cost the state more than $100 million to prosecute, and all 17 companies settled out of court rather than face trial. The total settlements amounted to just over $600 million of the $902 million the state alleged had been underpaid. Additional settlements covering underpaid natural gas royalties and refining royalties amounted to another $400 million.

Meadville Corporation

The Meadville Corporation was an oil company based in Haverford, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1930 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Fuel was sold at retail gas stations under the brand name "Merit", the logo consisting of a red "M" with the right vertical support cut off. Merit gas stations could be found throughout the Northeastern United States. For many years, Amerada Hess had a large stake in the company. In 2000, Hess acquired the remainder of the Meadville Corporation and rebranded its 178 Merit gas stations as Hess. Those stations became part of Marathon Petroleum's Speedway brand due to the latter company's purchase of Hess's retail assets in 2014. 7 years later, Japanese-based Seven & I Holdings purchased Speedway, making those stations a part of the 7-Eleven family.

<i>James D. Zirin</i> New York lawyer, author

James David Zirin is an American lawyer, author, and television talk-show host.

Robert Lee Hess was an American scholar of African history, and the sixth President of Brooklyn College.

Hess Corporation, an American global independent energy company, also manufactures toy trucks, helicopters, police cars, airplanes, space shuttles, and rescue vehicles. Each year, the model changes to a new design and older models are considered collectibles.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 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
  2. We Are Many: Reflections on American Jewish History and Identity By Edward S Shapiro, pages 123-124, retrieved April 6, 2013
  3. 1 2 "Leon Hess". Sports Illustrated . May 7, 1999. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
  4. 1 2 Gola, Hank (January 12, 2000). "Hess Family Hits Gusher In Jet Sale". Daily News. New York.
  5. "Sonny Werblin, an Impresario of New York's Sports Extravaganza, Is Dead at 81". The New York Times. November 23, 1991.
  6. Sandomir, Richard (January 14, 2000). "Sports Business; For Hess's Estate, It's a jets.com". The New York Times.
  7. 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.
  8. New Jersey Star Ledger: "Norma Wilentz Hess" April 22, 2010
  9. New York Times: "Marlene Hess, a Banking Executive, Is Married to James Zirin, a Lawyer" May 19, 1990
  10. "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.
  11. "Leon Hess". New Jersey Hall of Fame. 2014-04-12. Retrieved 2019-08-15.
  12. 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)
  13. Lange, Randy. "Leon Hess, Wayne Chrebet to Join Ring of Honor". New York Jets. Retrieved 9 Jan 2015.
  14. "Leon Hess Business School".
  15. "Hess Center - NYC | Icahn School of Medicine".
  16. "Hess Center - NYC | Icahn School of Medicine".