Chicago’s Great Brands Generate Stunning Wealth

by | Sep 25, 2004

“In retrospect, the real beginning of Lands’ End probably lies interred with the bones of some distant ancestor of mine, who passed along those genes compelling me toward total independence. The idea for the company though, appeared the winter of my discontent, bumming in the Swiss Alps around Davos. I read The Magic Mountain and contemplated whether there would be life after 33, and what it might consist of. One thing, I did not want to go back to the job I left (but I did go back to Young & Rubicam for a year) and I wanted to start a business, something to do with my hobby, sailboat racing.” – Gary Comer, former Y&R copywriter


I’ve been pondering what some of the Forbes 400 richest did to achieve their great wealth. Often, when I see a mansion that’s simply too big or some other ostentatious display, I’ll point and say, “Arms dealer.” I’m only too pleased to report my speculation is off kilter. In Chicago, the richest people got that way by building great companies–Lands’ End (now operating out of Dodgeville, WI), CDW, Oprah, Hyatt, Wrigley, and Motorola to name a few.

In a twisted insight into consumer buying habits, the richest Chicagoan (at five billion in net worth) is H. Ty Warner, the man behind the Beanie Babies phenomenon.