In 1974, entrepreneur Christel DeHaan co-founded Resort Condominiums International, now known as RCI, with her husband, Jon. The company, which arranges vacation exchange and travel services for time-share owners at worldwide RCI-affiliated resorts, is the largest such organization in the world; in the early days, DeHaan did RCI mailings from her home and paid neighbor children $1 an hour to stuff and stamp envelopes. DeHaan, who was born and raised in Germany and came to the United States in 1962, became the company’s sole owner in 1989 and seven years later sold her interest in the business for $825 million. At the time of the sale, RCI employed 4,200 people at 68 offices in 33 countries. DeHaan is recognized for her personal and corporate philanthropy. The $10.7 million Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center at the University of Indianapolis is named in her honor.•
Anton J. “Tony”Hulman Jr.
Anton J. “Tony” Hulman was a millionaire Terre Haute businessman who had the foresight to buy the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a song in November 1945 and the vision to turn the annual Memorial Day classic into “the greatest spectacle in racing” during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. The son of a wealthy Terre Haute wholesale grocer, Hulman took over the family’s Clabber Girl division in Terre Haute, turning the baking soda firm into the family’s most profitable venture. Hulman participated in everything from automobile races to tuna fishing tournaments. In 1945, Hulman offered $700,000 for Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which had suspended races during World War II. More than 175,000 fans turned out for the 1946 running of the Indianapolis 500. Over the next 30 years, Hulman poured millions of dollars into renovating the property. By the time he died in 1977, the month-long Indianapolis 500 festivities surrounded one of the most popular sporting events in America and as many as 400,000 people attended the Memorial Day race.•
Indianapolis cracked into the world of big-time professional sports in 1974 when the American Basketball Association’s Indiana Pacers joined the NBA, playing in the brand-new Market Square Arena. Mel Simon and his brother, Herb, purchased the Pacers in 1983, and the team has remained in Simon family control since. Born in Brooklyn, Simon was stationed at the U.S. Army Finance Center at Fort Harrison in 1953. Upon completing his hitch in the Army, Simon remained in Indianapolis and took a full-time job with a developer who was building one of the area’s first regional shopping centers. In 1960, Simon opened his own firm to build shopping malls. By 1978, Melvin Simon & Associates was the country’s third-largest builder of shopping centers. A decade later, the Indianapolis firm had more than doubled the number of shopping centers it owned and operated. The Simon firm continued to grow during the 1990s, building and developing some of the nation’s most prestigious shopping centers and acquiring a major competitor in Ohio. Simon Property Group Inc. became the nation’s premier shopping center developer during the 21st century. Simon died in September 2009 at age 82. His wealth at the time was estimated at $1.3 billion.•
Thomas Taggart made his fortune in the hospitality business before embarking upon one of the city’s most prominent political careers. A native of Xenia, Ohio, Taggart went to work in a railroad restaurant at the age of 15. He moved to Indianapolis in 1877 to manage the company’s restaurant at Union Station, and within 10 years had bought the restaurant. Taggart later served three terms as Indianapolis mayor. He built bridges, paved streets and sidewalks, nearly tripled the mileage of sewers in Indianapolis, and increased the city’s area by almost 10 square miles through annexations and municipal purchases. He also established the nucleus of a city park system when he purchased 900 acres along White River during his last term in office. Taggart retired from Indianapolis public life in 1901 to purchase French Lick Springs Hotel in southern Indiana. In 1916, he served less than a year in the U.S. Senate, appointed to the position by his old friend Gov. Samuel Ralston.•