Yale University

In Memoriam

W. Robert Reum

Bob Reum died on February 4, 2017. Here are two obituaries.


Obituary, Chicago Sun-Times

February 13, 2017


Bob Reum
1964 graduation

A prominent business executive, who was also active in Chicago civic affairs and philanthropy, died on February 4, 2017 at Northwestern Hospital from complications of cancer. He was 74.

As chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Amsted Industries Corporation since 2001, an employee-owned industrial conglomerate in the railroad, vehicular, and construction markets, Mr. Reum directed the company during a period of record earnings growth and exponentially increased share value.

Amsted board member Larry Gies remarked, "Bob was the inspirational leader we all try to emulate: people first, a bias for action, and laser-focused strategies. His positive impact on so many of us will never be forgotten." General Counsel and Interim CEO Steve Smith continued by saying, "Bob was made for a company like Amsted — 100% owned by its employees. He built Amsted into a global transportation and industrial supplier, all the time focused on how doing so built wealth for the worker on the shop floor. There was no ego for Bob — he just always wanted to make whatever he touched better."

Mr. Reum also served over the past fourteen years as a director of Houston-based Waste Management, most recently as its non-executive chairman. Jim Fish, president and chief executive officer of Waste Management, stated, "As board chair, his steady hand and thoughtful insights guided and strengthened us, and we will greatly miss him and his contributions."

Prior to joining Amsted, Mr. Reum was president and chief executive officer of The Interlake Corporation, which was successfully sold to the British multinational group GKN PLC in 1999.

Mr. Reum also made significant contributions to Chicago-area cultural and non-profit institutions as a member of the board of trustees and treasurer of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and during prior sustained tenures as chairman of the board of trustees of both The Morton Arboretum and The Elgin Academy.

Robert Reum was born on July 22, 1942 in Oak Park, Illinois, the son of Walter and Lucy Reum, who both held notable positions in Illinois governmental and political affairs. As an accomplished athlete and All-State basketball player at Oak Park River Forest High School, he went on to receive a B.A. degree in political science at Yale University, where he helped propel Yale's basketball team to an NCAA tournament berth in 1962. Subsequently, he earned a J.D. degree from the University of Michigan Law School as well as an M.B.A. in finance from Harvard Business School, where he achieved recognition as a Baker Scholar. In 1976, he co-authored an article in the Harvard Business Review with his wife, Sherry Milliken Reum, analyzing the merits of employee stock-ownership plans.

In addition to Sherry, his wife of 50 years, Mr. Reum is survived by his brother James and three children, Courtney, Carter, and Halle, all residing in Los Angeles. Brothers Courtney and Carter founded VEEV Spirits and currently lead the entrepreneurial brand-development investment company M13, while Halle Hammond is a celebrity stylist in the TV and motion picture industry.

"Our father was the most extraordinary man we knew. Everyone he came into contact with was touched by his kindness, brilliance, and charisma, including the innumerable people he mentored along the way. He had an integrity and principle of character like no man we've ever met. More than his accomplishments, he will be remembered as an exceptional human being who loved his wife and family above all else."

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The Morton Arboretum in memory of Robert Reum.


Obituary, Chicago Tribune

Robert Reum, sparked Amsted Industries turnaround, dies 

February 10, 2017

W. Robert Reum led a turnaround at Chicago-based Amsted Industries, where he became chairman, president, and CEO in 2001. That turnaround was guided by a simple philosophy, said one colleague.

"He just wanted to make whatever he touched better," said Steve Smith, interim CEO and general counsel of the employee-owned manufacturer of industrial components for the railroad, vehicular, construction, and building markets.

"Bob was made for a company like Amsted — 100 percent owned by its employees," Smith said. "He built Amsted into a global transportation and industrial supplier, all the time focused on how doing so built wealth for the worker on the shop floor."

Reum was also a 14-year board member of Houston-based Waste Management and was the company's non-executive chairman when he died.

Reum, 74, died of complications from cancer Feb. 4 in Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, according to his son Courtney. Reum had a home in Wayne and a condominium on Chicago's Gold Coast.

He grew up in Oak Park and graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School. He received a undergraduate degree at Yale University, a law degree from the University of Michigan, and a master's in finance from Harvard Business School.

"His father was a lawyer, so he went to law school, but by the time he graduated from law school, he knew law wasn't for him," Courtney Reum said.

Business turned out to be his calling. Prior to joining Amsted, Robert Reum was president and CEO of The Interlake Corporation, which was sold to the British multinational group GKN PLC in 1999.

Reum, who had been on the Amsted board since 1992, became the chairman, president, and CEO in 2001. At the time the company was carrying a lot of debt from a big acquisition and facing an impending recession, Smith said.

"Bob came on board and absolutely led a turnaround," Smith said. "The march in the last 15 years has been unbelievable."

John Nathan, a friend since he and Reum met before their freshman year at Yale, told of visiting Reum at his office about a year after he became Amsted's CEO.

Amsted had a well-appointed office, but Nathan found Reum working in a small anteroom off the much larger office.

"Amsted was really in deep trouble at the time," said Nathan, who asked his friend why he wasn't using the big office. "Bob said, ' I'm going to ask people to make a lot of sacrifices and I think it sends a very bad message for me to be in that office.' "

Smith, who joined the company in 2005, said he'd heard about Reum's downsizing. "He made a much smaller corporate office, putting the focus on the businesses and the folks who were actually making stuff and selling stuff."

His moves paid off, according to Amsted board member Larry Gies. "He turned the business around. It's an amazing story of employee engagement and they've become wealthy through the process."

Gies said the employee ownership plan, which was in place before Reum became CEO, has played a large part in Amsted's success. "It's an amazing example when employees and the management team work together to satisfy the customer in such a productive way," he said.

Reum was a member of the board of trustees and treasurer of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and had been chairman of the board of trustees of the Morton Arboretum in Lisle and The Elgin Academy, his family said.

Reum played basketball in high school and was on the Yale varsity team that went to the NCAA Tournament in 1962. He never lost his enthusiasm for the game and with his wife had Bulls season tickets for years.

"He did a lot for Chicago, a lot for the companies he was involved with, and a lot for the people he was involved with," Gies said.

Survivors also include his wife of 50 years, Sherry; a daughter, Halle Hammond; another son, Carter; and a brother, James.

A private celebration of his life is planned for March 4 in Chicago.