Friday, June 5, 2009

Dick Jacobs, man who shaped Cleveland, dies

Dick Jacobs, a man who truly loved the city of Cleveland, who rescued Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians from fleeing town and who redrew our skyline died at age 84.

Most Clevelanders will remember Jacobs as the strong but behind-the-scenes owner that revived the Indians from one of the perennially worst teams in baseball to a two-time World Series contender. When he purchased the team, rumors swirled that because the team was so bad for so long, the team could well leave the city behind.

But Jacobs built his fortune in real estate. Most notably, Jacobs was the developer behind the Society Bank Tower — now the Key Bank Tower — which is the tallest building between New York and Chicago.

He had his flops, too, like the development of The Galleria, which was supposed to be a high-end shopping center to compete with Beachwood Place, but now is a beautiful building with very little retail to draw any shoppers in.

Cleveland Magazine, in 1987, was the first member of the mainstream media to be granted an interview with Jacobs. Ned Whelan's story shows a side of Jacobs that is not often portrayed: The funny, smart, hard-working man who, like in this anecdote, continually surprised:
Such street smarts helped him a few years ago when he was approached by a mugger who demanded money. Jacobs bluffed. He reached into his coat pocket, pretending to grip a gun. Then he coolly talked to the man, saying he understood the need for money in these hard times.

Jacobs agreed to leave some cash — a five-dollar bill, as it turned out — at the base of a nearby utility pole if the mugger would pick it up after Jacobs walked away. "I was nervous," he admits, "but I tried to be calm."
After you've read Ned's piece, check out this piece in 2002 when we honored Jacobs as one of the people who defined our city.

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