N. Bud Grossman's ingenuity gave birth to one of the first companies in the nation to lease vehicles to corporations. He founded General Leasing Co. in 1956, and Fortune 500 companies and firms worldwide turned to the venture Grossman started as an outgrowth of the chain of Twin Cities car dealerships he ran with his brother, Harold, to meet their transportation needs.
Ironically, he didn't own Grossman Chevrolet (a cousin operated that dealership), but his portfolio of car lots included Suburban Chevrolet in Eden Prairie, Rosedale Chevrolet in Roseville, Freeway Ford in Bloomington and Prestige Lincoln Mercury in Golden Valley. Grossman's other endeavors included sitting on the boards of numerous arts and educational institutions, and he was part of a group that owned the Minnesota Vikings from 1991 to 1998.
Grossman died of Alzheimer's disease Monday at his home in Paradise Valley, Ariz. He was 88.
"He enjoyed the Vikings and was proud of that association, the association of anything Minnesota," said his son Andrew of Minneapolis. "He was happy to support the community, and wherever he could he contributed."
Grossman was able to build his network of car dealerships because he was goal-oriented, had integrity and "had the touch to deal with customers and employees," said his son Thomas of Minneapolis.
He also was a visionary, said Richard McFerran, who worked for Grossman for about 20 years and was CFO at General Leasing Co., which later became Gelco Corp.
"He had a great mind," McFerran said. "He was a very wide-ranging thinker."
When Grossman sold Gelco to GE Capital in 1987, it had become one of the largest transportation leasing companies in the world.
Grossman was co-founder and chairman of the board of Dyco Petroleum Corp. and sat on the boards of such companies as General Mills, Toro, Ecolab, Churchill Capital, the former Norwest Bank and Northern States Power.
He valued education, and that led him to serve as a longtime trustee at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and chairman of the board of overseers of the University of Minnesota School of Business. The University of Minnesota renamed its Center for Memory Research and Care in his honor in 2007.
He was a trustee of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Guthrie Theater and was chairman of the Minnesota Orchestra, where he dealt with financial aspects and "helped keep the orchestra solvent," said his wife, Beverly, of Minneapolis.
Grossman graduated from North High School in Minneapolis and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota. He was a pilot and taught instrument flying as a member of the Army Air Corps during World War II, his wife said.
In his free time, he enjoyed playing golf and was a fierce competitor on the tennis court at area clubs. He also was an "amazing father" to his children and grandchildren, Beverly said.
In addition to his sons Thomas and Andrew, Grossman is survived by two other sons, Richard of Los Angeles and Joseph of Sydney, Australia, 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. His first wife, Alene, died in 1988.
Services were held Thursday.