CHICAGO (TheStreet) --- William Rockwell Wirtz, aka "Rocky," is principal owner of the Chicago Blackhawks NHL team and Wirtz Corp., a conglomerate of industries that include real estate, banking, insurance and the Wirtz Beverage Group, for which son Danny is vice president of spirits marketing and sales.
Father and son sat recently to talk about the team, its Stanley Cup win, the pleasures of drink and delights of family and the city they call home.
Rocky, you took over as chairman of the Blackhawks in the fall of 2007. At the beginning of this season, your fifth in charge, you're able to look back on an impressive and growing list of achievements. Aside from winning the Stanley Cup -- that's too easy -- what is your proudest moment as head of the Hawks?
Seeing 2 million people on a beautiful Friday afternoon in Chicago celebrating a hometown win. It was both gratifying and humbling to be a part of it.
Your changes really helped usher the team -- and the perception of the team -- into a new era. To think that five years ago, the Blackhawks weren't even on TV in Chicago. Now Danny is tweeting about watching Hawks games on his iPhone. How do you approach and manage the balance between hockey's rich tradition and necessary innovation?
It is no different than how you sell Crown Royal or Smirnoff, two brands with rich histories. You honor the past by embracing fresh ideas and by bringing in the right people. You have to entrust the people in your organization to find the right talent and let them do their job.
The old adage: You've got to spend money to make money. It's another one of the philosophical changes you made to the business of the Blackhawks. You believe in it, but it wasn't something the team had been used to when you took over. What advice, with that in mind, would you give a new business owner with very little money to spend?
You have to invest your own personal equity and commit to being there more than anyone else. And you have to embrace innovation and find a way to be different.
At Wirtz Beverage you employ more than 3,000 people nationally. You're Illinois' leading wine and spirits distributor. Beyond the experience, your family has a great passion for the industry. If you could both pick only one beverage to drink for the rest of your life, what is it?
A good pinot noir. Don't make me pick a brand -- that's like asking who your favorite child is.
Danny, you're the leader of Wirtz Beverage's supplier relations. Who taught you the significance of building strong personal relationships within business?
Clearly my dad. It's one of the foundations to his business approach, and his ability to build relationships with our suppliers, customers and employees is the reason we're in the position we are in today at Wirtz Beverage. He translated that approach to the Blackhawks, where he's stressed the importance of relationships with fans, players, media and sponsors. I have learned a ton watching how those relationships have led to success.
And now you serve on the Rising Leaders' Council for a local prep school, where you're able to impart your wisdom to future business minds. What's the first thing you notice in a young leader?
I usually notice first and foremost their passion. Those that get excited about what they do. Good leaders have that conviction and desire to win, and you can see it right off the bat. I tend to gravitate to those leaders and look to bring that style into our company.
Rocky, you live with your wife in the northern suburbs. You've got three children and a granddaughter, and another one on the way. It goes without saying that family is important to you. But when your family name is the business, how do you find your work/life balance?
You have to work at it and set aside the time and turn certain things off to appreciate those moments, whether it's a wedding, funeral or the birth of two beautiful baby granddaughters.
Danny, you've lived and worked in New York and London, yet you've chosen to have and raise your family in Chicago. What is about this city that pulls you back?
I love New York. I love London. Those are world-class cities that are almost incomparable. Chicago, though, is home. It combines so many of the great things about the East and West Coasts, with a middle-of-the-road sensibility. I think Chicago has the energy, sophistication, culture and vitality, but combined with an approachable attitude that make this a place I want to raise my family in. You canmake your mark here, and the city supports great ideas.
You recently tweeted, "Mentally preparing for
Disney On Ice
. Where we'll lose our daughter to the impenetrable force of Disney marketing. #princessbrainwash." As a marketing mind, and excluding Disney
, what three companies do you view as exemplary marketers?
whose choices have redefined their industries. They have built product passion around their brands and weaved a lifestyle into otherwise non-emotive products -- computers and sneakers.
Another tweet I particularly enjoyed was, "I love the smell of a Zamboni in the morning! Game on!" When you think back to growing up at the old Chicago Stadium, what comes to mind?
There was definitely a smell. A combination of beer, popcorn, cigarette smoke and the fumes from the Zamboni. I will never forget that building for those smells, the unique nooks and crannies. As a youngster exploring the building, it was a great adventure.
After the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, what did your "day with the Cup" consist of?
We relaxed at home and had close neighbors and friends over to enjoy the day. It was a very low-key day.
Hockey is, of course, teeming with day-in, day-out traditions by superstitious players. Does the chairman of the Blackhawks have his own superstitions?
I used to switch ties depending on the game outcome -- that is, until I realized it wasn't working. Now I leave the superstitions to everyone else.
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