Yale University

In Memoriam

W. Robert Reum

Bob Reum died on February 4, 2017. Here are three remembrances:

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.


Remembrance at Bob's Memorial Service

John Nathan, '64

March 4, 2017

When the Reum family asked me to speak today, I wondered how I could capture Bob in a few minutes. If I had a few hours, I could not do him justice. But I do have a few stories that might help celebrate the life of this extraordinary person.

My name is John Nathan. Bob Reum was my friend for 57 years, ever since we were freshmen at Yale back in 1960.

Actually, I met Bob before our freshman year. That previous summer, a Yale alumnus in Libertyville hosted a party for the incoming freshmen from the Chicago area. In walked Bob Reum, this scholar-athlete from Oak Park High School. He had everything. Good looking. An all-Illinois basketball star. Smart as a whip. The bearing and gait of a born leader. And clearly someone all the Oak Park cheerleaders fawned over.

After a while, the host got the bright idea to get up a game of touch football. Sides were chosen. Bob was #1 in the draft. (For the record, I was chosen last, and for good reason.) After a few plays, Bob lost one of his contact lenses. If this had been a basketball court, it would not have been a big deal to find. But this was an Illinois field. In August. The grass was dead and piled deep. Essentially, we had to find a needle in a horizontal hay stack. Bob took charge, organized the group into search parties, everyone on their hands and knees in the hot sun, and directed traffic until someone found the contact.

That was my introduction to Bob Reum. He had just turned 18 and already had developed an uncanny ability to motivate people. You couldn’t help feeling that this fellow was going places.

Bob, of course, went on to flourish at Yale. You know all the statistics: Varsity basketball. On that great Yale team that went to the NCAA finals in 1962. A feat that Yale would not repeat for over 50 years. His academic credentials gained him admission to Michigan Law School. It was in Ann Arbor where he had the good fortune to meet Sherry, his future wife of 50 years.

What you may not know is that he picked up a nickname at Yale. On one varsity basketball road game he caught the attention of some girls. So much so that his teammates started to call him “Rudy,” after Rudolph Valentino, the heart-throb movie star. The name stuck. Ask anyone who went to Yale in those days about Bob Reum. The reply will be: “You mean Rudy.”

Bob was also fearless. In the early 1970s, Bob and Sherry lived in New York City. Bob was working for MGM, and Sherry was getting her MBA at Columbia Business School. I was also working in New York. In my spare time, I built a fancy model boat that I sailed at the Central Park model-boat pond. If you have never seen it, that pond is huge. Hundreds of people stroll around it on weekends. One weekend, Bob and Sherry joined me. On this occasion, my boat stalled in the middle of the pond. Bob came to the rescue. He stripped down to his designer underwear, jumped in, and rescued my boat. To the delight of the cheering spectators, I might add.

I know — you are wondering whether Bob wore boxers or briefs that day. The crowd’s reaction should give you a hint.

Bob also had the gift of being able to get along with anyone. He could adapt to any new situation. Just look at his career. Time and again, the companies he worked for were acquired, and he had to move on. First MGM, when he was in New York. Then White Motor when he was in Cleveland. Then Interlake when he was in Chicago. Each time, Bob picked himself up, retooled, and went on to bigger and better things.

Fifty-seven years. So many stories. But for me, one stands out above all others. The story was reported in the press recently. Some of you may have seen it. But it describes Bob so perfectly that it bears repeating here.

In 2001, Bob became Amsted’s CEO. The company was in very bad shape. Some in the press were reporting possible bankruptcy. About a year into his tenure, I was in Chicago and had dinner with Bob and Sherry. I met Bob first at Amsted’s offices. It was a Friday night, after hours, and everyone else had left for the weekend. Bob took me into what he called his “office.” Actually it was a small anteroom adjacent the former CEO’s office. There was barely enough room for Bob, his desk, and me. I asked him why he was sitting there and not using the CEO office. His reply:

“I am going to ask a lot of people to make a lot of sacrifices, and I think it sends a very bad message for me to be sitting in that big office.”

That one moment spoke volumes about Bob Reum. It captured his empathy for others, his character, and his judgment. Most new CEOs would have marched into the corner office and tried to radiate power and authority. Bob sat in that little room and radiated leadership. No wonder he led Amsted back from the brink. No wonder he turned it into one of America’s largest private companies.

I last saw Bob in October at Halle’s spectacular wedding in California. What a thrill it was to spend time with Bob and Sherry, their incredibly accomplished children, Halle, Courtney and Carter, and Bob’s and Sherry’s extended families. How lucky each of you was to have him.

I took a picture of Bob walking Halle down the aisle. It will always be how I remember him. The picture of health. On top of the world. Beaming with pride.

W. Robert Reum. Most of you called him Bob. But to me, he will always be Rudy. And I miss him every day.