05/24/2016 10:44AM

Owner Wheelock Whitney dead at 89


Wheelock Whitney, a prominent Minnesota civic leader, sports owner, philanthropist, and Jockey Club member, died on May 20 at his home on Promise Hill Farm in Independence, Minn., near Minneapolis. He was 89.

In racing, Whitney was part-owner with the late Lou Rowan of the great stayer and handicap horse Quicken Tree, by Royal Orbit, who won the 1970 Santa Anita Handicap and San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap, and in 1968 traveled to New York to win the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup over Damascus.

One of the first horses owned by Whitney, also in partnership with Rowan, was the Nashville colt Ruken, winner of the 1967 Santa Anita Derby and eighth in the Kentucky Derby.

Whitney, who owned and bred horses for decades, became a member of The Jockey Club in 1974 and joined the organization’s board of stewards in 1998. His second wife was the trainer Penny Lewis, marrying her in 1990 and divorcing in 1994. In recent years, Whitney kept his horses in training with Shug McGaughey and Lisa Lewis, daughter of Penny Lewis from her first marriage to trainer Jim Lewis.

Born July 30, 1926, in St. Cloud, Minn., Whitney went to Yale University, where he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity with eventual President George H.W. Bush.

Whitney was a successful investment banker, being chief executive officer of Dain and Co., which eventually became RBC Wealth Management, from 1963 to 1972, before going to teach at the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota. He is in the Minnesota business hall of fame.

He had diverse interests and was influential in Minnesota politics, sports, and civic matters that included bids as the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota in 1964, losing to Eugene McCarthy, and for governor in 1982, losing to Rudy Perpich.

He was especially active in Minneapolis, being instrumental in bringing major league baseball and hockey to the Twin Cities. He helped obtain the MLB franchise for the state and served on the board of the Minnesota Twins for 24 years. He was one of the investors in the Minnesota North Stars, which was awarded the NFL franchise in 1966, and was part-owner and president of the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL for a number of years before the franchise was sold in 1998.

Whitney was married three times. His present wife was Kathleen Blatz, former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He is survived by three children, Wheelock Whitney III, Pennell Whitney, Joseph Whitney, and Ben Whitney.