Ted Bensinger, 83, charming businessman’s family ran Brunswick Corp.
BY SANDRA GUY Staff Reporter July 4, 2013 11:16PM
Updated: August 6, 2013 6:39AM
Entrepreneur and real-estate businessman B.E. “Ted” Bensinger III, whose family ran one of Chicago’s first publicly held companies, the Brunswick Corp., leveraged his outsized charm and personality to treat friends and family with unforgettable memories.
Mr. Bensinger, a worldwide traveler and avid civic and charitable leader, died June 29 at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif., after battling brain and lung cancer for several months.
Mr. Bensinger, an Astor Street and Lake Shore Drive native, was 83.
“He defined one of the most unforgettable characters you’ve ever met,” said lifelong friend Gardner Stern, head of his eponymous emergency-response food and lodging company. “He was a very flamboyant and creatively energetic character, but a very warm-hearted and endearing guy.”
Stern, 85, said one of his most vivid memories was when Mr. Bensinger, whose late reply left him without a room to join friends at a cushy Palm Springs resort, pulled up in a “huge” camper and plugged it into an electrical outlet next to his friends’ rooms for the week.
“It was so wonderfully typical of his combination of humorous ways and creative flamboyancy,” Stern said.
Another lifelong friend, John L. Hines, the retired founder and president of Chicago-based Continental Illinois Venture Corp. and Continental Illinois Equity Corp., said Mr. Bensinger was smart and “a tremendous amount of fun,” even when giving his tennis rivals a hard-charging game.
“Whether it was playing cards, sports or in social life, he was very enjoyable to be with in a marvelous, light way,” said Hines, 83, who played a “very lively” poker game with Mr. Bensinger once or twice a week for years.
“He was a terrifically delightful, pleasant, fun guy,” Hines said.
Mr. Bensinger’s younger brother, Roger, 80, remembered “Ted” charming his way into the royal “enclosure” at the famous Ascot horse race in England in 1986, enabling the Bensinger brothers to sit close to Princess Diana and other royalty.
“Ted had a special skill in arranging to get himself into the most exclusive settings at public events of anyone I knew,” Roger said. “He could charm the birds out of the trees.”
On another occasion 53 years ago, Mr. Bensinger took Roger, both dressed casually, to the exclusive Half Moon resort hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where everyone in the dining area was dressed in formal attire.
“I said, ‘What are we doing here?’” Roger recalled. “Then I heard a voice calling, ‘T-e-d-d-y, T-e-d-d-y’ from across the room. It was Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, who was there with then-Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. They were vacationing there before starting the 1960 campaign.”
The Bensinger brothers — Ted, Roger and youngest brother Peter, 78, of Lake Forest, former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration under three presidents — are the great-great grandsons of Moses Bensinger, the son-in-law of Brunswick Corp. founder John M. Brunswick.
The 168-year-old, Lake Forest-based Brunswick Corp., with 2012 revenues of $3.72 billion, is known for its yacht business but also includes fitness, bowling and billiards divisions.
Peter Bensinger recalled his brother’s golf talents, saying, “(Teddy) would stand with the putter between his legs looking backwards from 25 feet, and sank a lot of putts and won a lot of bets.”
Mr. (Ted) Bensinger won the Bob Hope Pro-Am Classic Golf Tournament in 1966.
He graduated from Yale University and earned his master’s degree in business administration from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Mr. Bensinger worked at Brunswick for several years, including as branch manager of the Los Angeles office, before working in investment banking at Dean Witter Reynolds and Lehman Brothers in Los Angeles and London, and founding his own company, Creative Capital.
He was active in civic, charitable and social causes, including serving on the Board of Governors of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where a waiting room for cancer patients was established in his name in 2012.
He also served on the board of the Santa Monica Conservancy, the Los Angeles Zoo and the George Page Museum, and was a Fellow of Davenport College at Yale.
Roger Bensinger noted that the sons have created impressive careers in their own rights, with John, a surgical assistant in Asheville, N.C.; Kerry a circuit court judge, and Tyler, a Hollywood filmmaker.
Bensinger was married for 25 years to former film actress, the late Jarma Lewis. Aside from his sons and brothers, he also is survived by six grandchildren.
A funeral service for Mr. Bensinger will be held at the Westwood Presbyterian Church at 10822 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif., at 2:30 p.m. on July 14, with a reception to follow.
Donations in his memory can be sent to the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, 8700 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif., 90048.