A terrific friend and supporter of the Lexington Institute passed away in May. Grover Connell was 100 when he died, and he ran his privately held multi-billion dollar company to the end. He was simply an amazing guy. Grover was as nice as the day is long, while succeeding as one of the sharpest entrepreneurs of his generation.
Grover was a conservative Democrat named after Grover Cleveland. He deployed in World War Two to the western Pacific as part of Task Force 53 on a Fletcher-class destroyer. He was the disbursement officer on his ship. On principle, Grover would not pay the enlisted crew until they pulled into port because the officers on board would take all their money away in card games. He said the enlisted folks would still lose much of their money in port, but at least he gave them a chance.
On the way out of the Navy in 1946 Grover had a medical check-up, and did not go to a doctor again until he was 75. He was remarkably fit and sharp, despite pushing himself so hard at building and running his giant business.
The Connell Company did everything from mining and international trade, to equipment leasing, finance and real estate. Grover said two things mattered in real estate. The first is location, which everyone thinks they really care about but few actually understand. The other is quality, whether it is residential or commercial properties. For instance, if you build an office building, it needs to be high quality because people spend a huge percentage of their lives at work and want to be comfortable in good surroundings.
My last lunch with Grover was one year ago at his Westfield, New Jersey office with Lexington Chairman Jim Courter. In his conference room, we ate deli sandwiches with his daughter, two grandsons and one great grandson, all of whom work for his company. To me, that sounds like a fun way to run a business.
Lexington will miss this great business leader and savvy analyst and wishes the best to his daughter Terry and the rest of the Connell family.
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