Obit: Business titan Kohler ran a family business for 4 decades

KOHLER, Wis. (AP) – Herbert Kohler Jr., who ran the plumbing fixture maker his grandfather founded for more than four decades and turned the tiny Wisconsin village that bears his name into a hotel destination, remains remembered as a businessman whose impact stretched far beyond his home country.

Kohler died Saturday at the age of 83.

“His zest for life, his adventure and his impact inspire us all,” his family said in a statement. “We traveled together, celebrated together and worked together. He was all in, all the time, leaving an indelible mark on how we live our lives today and carry on his legacy.

During his tenure as CEO, Kohler grew the company from a $133 million operation in 1972 to one that approached $6 billion in annual revenue in 2015 when he handed over the top job. to his son, David Kohler.

Kohler transformed the American Club, built in 1918 for immigrant workers in Kohler, into a five-star, five-diamond resort and built the championship golf courses, Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits.

In 2019, when Whistling Straits was chosen to be the site of the Ryder Cup, Kohler said it was a “once in a lifetime” event for the state and estimated an economic impact of $135 millions of dollars.

The Ryder Cup was delayed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but in 2021 it welcomed golf fans from all over the world.

Kohler was 26 when he started working for the family business after graduating from Yale in 1965. He became chairman and CEO of Kohler Company in 1972.