John H. McConnell, majority owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets, died Friday. He was 84.
The NHL club and Worthington Industries, the $3 billion-a-year steel-processing company McConnell founded, announced the death. No further details were immediately released.
McConnell led a group of investors who brought the NHL to Columbus, which joined the NHL for the 2000-01 season. He also was an early investor in Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew and a former minority owner of baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates.
“The National Hockey League would not be in Columbus if it weren’t for Mr. Mac’s love for this community and his deep commitment to it,” the Blue Jackets said in a statement released by the team. He has always been, and will continue to be, the foundation on which our organization is built and we will work everyday to practice the values by which he lived his life.
“Mr. Mac was an honorable man who believed in the golden rule, ‘Treat others as you want to be treated.’ An enormously successful businessman, his accomplishments in that arena were surpassed only by his endeavors that improved the lives of others. Every person who knew Mr. Mac is the better for it and everyone in our organization will miss him dearly.”
McConnell was born on May 10, 1923, in Pughtown, W.Va. The son of a steel worker, he grew up during the Great Depression. He served aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga during World War II and married his high school sweetheart, Peggy Rardin, upon discharge from the Navy. He then used the GI bill to enter Michigan State University, where he studied business and played football.
While working for Weirton Steel Corp., McConnell identified a niche in the industry for custom steel processing services. He used his 1952 Oldsmobile as collateral for a loan and, in 1955, launched Worthington Industries and the steel processing industry. The company he founded in Columbus employs 8,000 people in 69 facilities in 11 countries. It has annual sales of approximately $3 billion.
“My father’s legacy is how he treated people and that will live on in this company through all those who have worked here, past and present,” chairman and CEO John P. McConnell said. “His principles and wisdom are ingrained in our philosophy and that will never change. While it’s hard to imagine not having him here, we are comforted by the fact that his guidance will always be with us.”
Through his humanitarian and community efforts, the elder McConnell became widely recognized as one of Columbus’ most generous citizens. His charitable contributions led to the McConnell Heart Hospital at Riverside Hospital, which provides treatment and prevention services for heart-related illnesses. The more than $15 million donation to develop the hospital was the largest gift ever received by Riverside Hospital or its parent company, OhioHealth.
In 1997, McConnell led a group of investors to bring an NHL franchise to Columbus. The Blue Jackets played their first regular-season game in October 2000.
Mr. McConnell is survived by his son, John P. McConnell of Galena, Ohio, and his daughter, Margaret of New Orleans. Mr. McConnell is also survived by six grandchildren: K.C. Kollis; and Jennifer, John H. II, Jessica, Porter and Colin McConnell. He will be cremated and funeral arrangements are pending.