George Gund (philanthropist)
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George Gund Philanthropist
George Gund II
Born(1888-04-13)April 13, 1888
DiedNovember 15, 1966(1966-11-15) (aged 78)
OccupationBusinessman, philanthropost
Jessica Laidlaw Roesler
(m. 1936; died 1954)
Children6, including George III, Agnes, Gordon, and Graham

George Gund II (April 13, 1888 - November 15, 1966) was an American banker, business executive, and real estate investor who lived in Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States. He inherited his father's fortune and used a portion of it to purchase alien property seized during World War I. He sold this business at significant profit, and invested widely in banking, insurance, and real estate. Among his investments were a large number of shares in the then-small Cleveland Trust Company. Gund became a director of the bank in 1937 and president in 1941. He led the transformation of the institution into one of the largest banks in the United States. He retired as president in 1962, and was named chairman of the board of directors. A philanthropist for most of his life, he established The George Gund Foundation in 1952.

Early life

Gund's grandfather, Johann Gund, was born in 1830 in Brühl am Rhein in the independent country of the Grand Duchy of Baden (now part of Germany).[3] The family emigrated to the United States in 1848 and settled in Illinois, but in 1854 moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin.[3] There his grandfather founded the John Gund Brewery.[3] His father, George Frederick Gund, was born in LaCrosse in 1856 and later managed the Gund Brewery.[3] His father moved to Seattle, Washington, founded the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company, became a director of two banks, and then returned to the Midwest to move his family to Cleveland in 1897.[4] His father bought the Jacob Mall Brewing Company, renamed it the Gund Brewing Company, and made a large fortune investing in banking, mining, and real estate.[4]

George Gund Jr. (as he was then known) was born to George Frederick and Anna Louise (Metzger) Gund[3] on April 13, 1888.[5] He was a student at the University School of Cleveland from 1897 to 1905.[5] He entered Harvard University, and received his A.B. in 1909.[5] Toward the end of his Harvard education, he simultaneously enrolled in the Harvard Business School, and graduated in the school's first class in 1909.[6] He moved to Seattle and took a job as a clerk with the Seattle First National Bank, but moved back to Cleveland when his father died in 1916.[7] But when World War I broke out, he enlisted in the United States Army and served in the Military Intelligence Division.[8]

Business career

After the start of prohibition in the United States in 1920, Gund was forced to close his father's brewery in Cleveland.[4] But during the war, Kaffee HAG, a German corporation, was stripped of its assets in the United States. Among its subsidiaries was Sanka, the company which manufactured decaffeinated coffee. Gund purchased Sanka in 1919, then sold it to Kellogg's in 1927 for $10 million in stock.[9] Gund also took over management of the Gund Realty Company in Cleveland and invested his money in numerous ventures.[4] During the depths of the Great Depression, he purchased large amounts of stock at very low prices.[10]

Gund studied animal husbandry at Iowa State University from 1922 to 1923.[5] He made many trips to California and Nevada, often staying there for many months at a time, and became interested in a possible political career in Nevada.[11]

In 1937, Gund was elected a director of the Cleveland Trust Company (a savings bank established in 1896),[5] and was named president in 1941.[11] He was made chairman of the board of trustees in 1962.[12] Under Gund's leadership, by 1967 the bank had more than $2 billion in assets,[10] making it the 18th largest bank in the United States. Gund also served on the board of directors of another 30 national and multinational corporations.[13]

Gund was "extraordinarily conservative" when it came to business.[14] Cleveland Trust dominated the city's investment capital decisions, and Gund strongly favored the provision of capital to heavy industry (like steelmaking) and oil refining. Urban renewal held little interest for him, and he considered public-private partnerships too risky.[14][15]

Philanthropic work and memorials

Gund became a frequent giver of large charitable gifts beginning in 1937.[13] During his lifetime, he was a generous contributor to the Cleveland Institute of Art; Harvard University, where he endowed two professorships; Kenyon College; and Trinity Cathedral, an Episcopal church in Cleveland.[16] In 1952, Gund established The George Gund Foundation.[17] He divided his $200 million ($1.55 billion in 2020 dollars) fortune[18][19][a] into three trusts[18] during his lifetime.[23] The foundation ended 1953 with $166,878 ($1,614,000 in 2020 dollars) in assets,[25] but grew to about $30 million ($262,400,000 in 2020 dollars) in assets by 1960.[26] Disbursement of funds to various causes left the George Gund Foundation with just $16.4 million ($136,800,000 in 2020 dollars) in assets by 1964.[27] At Gund's death in November 1966, his estate was worth about $24.5 million ($195,900,000 in 2020 dollars) after the payment of debts and fees.[22] The bulk of his estate went to the George Fund Foundation, whose assets rose to just over $40 million ($310,500,000 in 2020 dollars).[23][24][b]

Gund served on the Board of Overseers of Harvard University, was a trustee of Kenyon College, and was a member of the advisory lay board of directors of John Carroll University.[10] He also served two terms on the Advisory Council of the Fourth Federal Reserve District in the mid-1950s.[28]

A number of buildings and places are named for Gund, due to his philanthropic efforts. Among these are: George Gund Hall at Harvard University Graduate School of Design,[29] Gund Hall at Case Western Reserve University School of Law,[30] and Gund Theater at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.[31]


George Gund died of leukemia at the Cleveland Clinic on November 15, 1966.[2] He was interred at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.[32]

Personal life

George Gund purchased a large cattle ranch in Nevada,[11] and had a deep affection for the Old West. He used his income to collect a large number of works of art which depicted the American West, including works by Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington, and Charles Marion Russell.[33]

In a New York Times article about Agnes Gund, Agnes addressed her father's personal life. "He didn't get married until he was 48 years old, Ms. Gund said, and there were whispers that he was gay. What Ms. Gund said she knew was that "he didn't like women so much, and I was one of those, so he didn't like me.' "[34]

On May 23, 1936,[1] he married Jessica Laidlaw Roesler (born June 21, 1903).[35] She was the granddaughter of Henry Bedell Laidlaw, the founder of one of the first investment banking houses in New York City, Laidlaw & Company.[2] Gund purchased a large home in Beachwood, a wealthy suburb of Cleveland,[11] and the couple had six children: George III, Agnes, Gordon, Graham, Geoffrey, and Louise.[36]


Gund distributed most of his fortune to his children through trusts during his lifetime.[18][23] He provided for no substantial monetary distribution to his children in his will. His personal effects, such as art, automobiles, books, clothing, jewelry, and pictures, were bequeathed to his children, however.[23] His Western art collection was appraised at $301,445 ($2,300,000 in 2020 dollars).[18]

George Gund III and Gordon Gund formerly owned the Cleveland Cavaliers professional basketball team and the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota North Stars professional ice hockey teams.[37]

In 1991, Agnes Gund was named president of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.[38] She stepped down in 2002.[39]

Graham Gund is the founder and owner of Graham Gund Architects, an architectural design firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An award-winning architect[40] and noted art collector,[41] he has designed numerous important buildings and residences, including the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, D.C., and overseen numerous redevelopment projects, such as the refurbishment of historic Faneuil Hall.[42] He is also a trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.[43]

Geoffrey Gund teaches at the Dalton School in New York City and is president of The George Gund Foundation.[44]

Louise Gund is a Tony Award-winning theater producer, environmentalist, women's activist, and philanthropist.[45]


  1. ^ A number of sources claim Gund's fortune was actually $600 million. The New York Times mentioned an anecdote about Gund's $600 million fortune in a 1971 article.[20] Robert A. Musson, a historian of the Cleveland brewing scene, wrote in 2005 that Gund was worth $600 million at the time of his death.[4] The magazine Vanity Fair even claimed that Gund gave $600 million to the George Gund Foundation in 1952.[21] Musson's claim is contradicted by the findings of the probate court, which found an estate worth just $25 million.[22] The Vanity Fair claim is contradicted by tax reports the foundation made to the U.S. federal government, which showed only about a $24 million donation after Gund's death.[22][23][24]
  2. ^ $18.9 million of Gund's estate consisted of stock. According to The Plain Dealer newspaper, the largest holdings were $8.7 million of Kellogg's stock, $1.5 million in Traveler's Corp. stock, $1.15 million in Northern Life Insurance Company stock, and $1.05 million in Standard Oil stock.[18]
  1. ^ a b "Gund-Roesler." New York Times. May 24, 1936.
  2. ^ a b c Van Tassel and Grabowski, p. 479.
  3. ^ a b c d e Haller, p. 216.
  4. ^ a b c d e Musson, p. 34.
  5. ^ a b c d e Committee on the History of the Federal Reserve System. Biographical Master File. Papers from the Committee on the History of the Federal Reserve System. United States Federal Reserve System. 1954. Accessed 2011-08-04.
  6. ^ Haller, p. 58.
  7. ^ Van Tassel and Grabowski, p. 445.
  8. ^ Foundation Reporter, p. 446.
  9. ^ Davis, p. 277; Musson, p. 59.
  10. ^ a b c "George Gund, 78, Bank's Chairman." New York Times. November 16, 1966.
  11. ^ a b c d Gund, p. 56.
  12. ^ "Bank Elevates Officers." New York Times. February 7, 1962.
  13. ^ a b Keele and Kiger, p. 155.
  14. ^ a b Clavel, Pierre (1986). The Progressive City: Planning and Participation, 1969-1984. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press. pp. 60-61. ISBN 9780813511191.
  15. ^ Stokes, Carl (1973). Promises of Power: A Political Autobiography. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 122. ISBN 9780671216023.
  16. ^ Fund Raiser's Guide to Private Fortunes, p. 156.
  17. ^ American Library Association, p. 588.
  18. ^ a b c d e Nussbaum, John (March 1, 1967). "Three Forgeries Uncovered in Gund's Art Collection". The Plain Dealer. p. 33.
  19. ^ "Gund Funds: Giving It Away". The Plain Dealer. February 10, 1991. p. 39.
  20. ^ Hershey, Robert D., Jr. (December 26, 1971). "Shadow of the Old School". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020.
  21. ^ Colacello, Bob (December 2015). "Agnes Gund, Art's Grande Dame, Still Has Work to Do". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2020.
  22. ^ a b c "Gund's Estate Nets Ohio a Mere $9,091". The Plain Dealer. August 18, 1967. p. 5.
  23. ^ a b c d e "Foundation to Receive Bulk of Gund's Estate". The Plain Dealer. November 29, 1966. p. 2.
  24. ^ a b "Gund Leaves Millions to Charity". Mansfield News-Journal. November 30, 1966. p. 11.
  25. ^ Select Committee on Small Business (June 30, 1969). Tax-Exempt Foundations and Charitable Trusts: Their Impact on Our Economy. Seventh installment. Subcommittee Chairman's Report to Subcommittee No. 1. Select Committee on Small Business. United States House of Representatives. 91st Cong., 1st sess. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 118.
  26. ^ Hammack, David C.; Smith, Stephen Rathgeb (2018). American Philanthropic Foundations: Regional Difference and Change. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press. p. 133. ISBN 9780253032751.
  27. ^ "Top Funds Are Listed". The Plain Dealer. April 10, 1966. p. 9.
  28. ^ "Renamed to Advisory Council." New York Times. December 24, 1953.
  29. ^ Bethell, Hunt and Shelton, p. 291.
  30. ^ Law School Admission Council, p. 94.
  31. ^ Helfand, p. 210.
  32. ^ "Gund, George". Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  33. ^ Raynor, Vivien. "Western Art on View at State Museum." New York Times. March 21, 1982.
  34. ^ Bernstein, Jacob (November 3, 2018). "Is Agnes Gund the Last Good Rich Person?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020.
  35. ^ Aaso, Joseph Wright (1908). Decennial Record of the Class of 1898, Sheffield Scientific School, 1898 to 1908. New Haven, Conn.: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Co. p. 50. OCLC 38062188.
  36. ^ Rutherford, p. 51.
  37. ^ Yardley, William. "George Gund III, Owner of Sports Teams, Dies at 75." New York Times. January 21, 2013. Accessed 2013-01-21.
  38. ^ Adrain, p. 98.
  39. ^ Vogel, Carol. "Inside Art." New York Times. June 14, 2002.
  40. ^ Goldberger, Paul. "31 Prizes Are Given For Distinguished Architecture." New York Times. January 17, 1981.
  41. ^ Russell, John. "In Boston: From the Old World to the New." New York Times. March 14, 1982.
  42. ^ Richards, David. "Much Ado About Shakespeare in Washington." New York Times. March 15, 1992; "Mount Holyoke: A New Downtown Rises, With Help, From the Ashes." New York Times. March 18, 1990.
  43. ^ Shattuck, Kathryn. "Norman Foster to Redesign Boston's Museum of Fine Arts." New York Times. May 18, 1999.
  44. ^ "Weddings: Sarah Gray, Geoffrey Gund." New York Times. March 26, 2000.
  45. ^ "Louise Gund Tony Awards Info".


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