Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ewing Kauffman, royalty in Kansas City

As the Kansas City Royals square off with the New York Metropolitans for dominance of the nationl pastime, I take a look at the founder of the Kansas City Royals, Ewing Kauffman, who is featured in Chapter 69 of my new book: "Exceptional Americans 2: The Capitalists."

     Lisa Blinzler Morrise, a reader and Facebook friend, suggested I write a profile of pharmaceutical giant Ewing Marion Kauffman. Hers was a great idea.
     “He was a friend of my Dad. We got our maids from the Kauffman's when they asked to work at a smaller house. We had one lady who Mr. Kauffman had taken on from Ty Cobb. He wanted her to have a place after Cobb died. I'll always remember her as being fairly mean, but I guess she was able to dish it back to the infamously rude Cobb. Ewing Kauffman not only founded the Royals from the ashes of the Athletics, he also revolutionized the Pharma industry. His policy of no ceiling on sales earnings created many millionaires in Kansas City. He was a keen philanthropist and all-around great guy,” Morrise wrote.
     Born on a farm in Garden City, Missouri, on September 21, 1916, his family moved to Kansas City when he was a boy. Kansas City would be his lifelong hometown. He became an Eagle Scout and after graduation from Westport High, attended Kansas City Junior College. Not bad for a boy who was bedridden for a year at age 11 with a heart ailment. Kaufman made good use of that time by reading 40 books a month.
     Like many men his age, Kaufman served in World War II as a sailor. After the war, he became a pharmaceutical salesman. In 1950, he struck out on his own.
     He named his company Marion Laboratories Inc., using his middle name rather than his last name to avoid being viewed as a one-man operation, which it was. His first year sales were $36,000 for a net profit of $1,000. Nearly 40 years later, when he sold the company to Merrell Dow in 1989, its annual sales were just under $1 billion and he employed 3,400 people.
     When the Athletics baseball team left for Oakland, Kaufman bought the rights to an American League expansion team, naming it the Kansas City Royals -- a nod to the Negro League's Kansas City Monarchs. But he is better known for his philanthropy.
     “I think the greatest satisfaction I have had, personally, is helping others, doing something that either inspires them or aids them to develop themselves in their future lives so they’ll not only be a better person but be a better productive citizen of the United States,” Kaufman once said.
     He promoted education.
     “In 1988, Mr. Kauffman went to Kansas City's Westport High School -- where he graduated in 1934 -- and promised the freshman class he would pay the entire cost of their college or vocational training if they agreed to avoid drugs, alcohol abuse and teen-age parenthood, and graduate in good standing from high school. He later expanded the program to Kansas City,” his obituary in the New York Times noted.
     In another context, addressing the U.S. Congress on July 17, 2003, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “As Britain knows, all predominant power seems for a time invincible, but, in fact, it is transient. The question is: What do you leave behind?”
     Ewing Marion Kauffman left a lifetime of entrepreneurship, which created 3,400 jobs and the wealth that provided philanthropy which improved many more lives.


I am publishing the best of these tales, in Kindle and on Amazon. Volume I covering American history from the 16th through the 20th century is here. And Volume II on The Capitalists is available here.

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