Walter Kaiser, a legendary entrepreneur and loving patriarch of the Chicago-based Kaiser family, led a life that many aspire to, but few achieve. He leaves this world with a lasting legacy that positively impacted his family and friends, as well as the development of many industries, from professional sports and athletic clubs to real estate development and film.
Born and raised in Chicago by the successful inventor and polyglot Harry Kaiser and his wife Mary, he was educated at the prestigious Northwestern University before quickly rising to match and exceed his father's success working alongside his brothers Jordon and Burton.
With his older brother Jordon, he began his career at the family company H.S. Kaiser, before co-founding the Lakeshore Athletic Club empire that paved the way for the development of all modern tennis and athletic clubs, including the landmark Lincoln Park Center, Lakeshore Center Downtown featuring the world's largest indoor climbing wall, and the London Reebok Club in Canary Wharf, Europe's largest athletic club.
Throughout the 1970s, he owned two former Chicago sports teams, the Aces of World Team Tennis and the Cougars of the World Hockey Association. By 1980, Lakeshore had over 12,000 members, and the Kaiser brothers had become prolific pioneers in the sports world, hosting international tennis tournaments and co-founding World Team Tennis with a group that included Billie Jean King.
Alongside his impact in sports, Walter was always a prolific real estate developer, supported by his brothers and many in his family who came to work for the family businesses Kaiser Developers and the Lakeshore Athletic Club brand. Outside of his main career, Walter was also an endless traveler, reveler and socialite, always enjoying life to its fullest and known as one of the most gracious hosts in the city.
With his brother Burton, Walter was also instrumental in bringing Hollywood and more of the film industry to Chicago. Walter's brother Burton was a famous screenwriter and producer whose production team won a 1970 Tony Award for Best Play and discovered Jane Mansfield, co-starring in and producing her first film. As patrons of the arts, Walter was one of the founding Directors of the Chicago International Film Festival, where he awarded lifetime achievement awards to legends like Steven Spielberg, and hosted global film premieres like The Dark Knight with Christian Bale. He never hesitated to make sure that his passions were front and center in his philanthropy.
Walter was a larger than life character that lived many lifetimes during his 88 years. He passed away on Sunday, September 12, 2021 surrounded by his family at St Joseph's Hospital in Chicago, the city he adored and always made his loving home.
Walter was head of an enormous family that grew so large due to his love and generosity. He is survived by his six children Stephanie (John), David (Evelyn), Larry, Pam, Louie and Gabriel; loving partner Irena; two grandchildren, Brittany and Natalie; one great-grandchild, Orion; and his nieces, nephews and cousins. He will be dearly missed by everyone who loved him, and his legacy will live on through his extended family, partners and friends.
Services, Tuesday 2PM at Zion Gardens Cemetery, 6758 West Addison Avenue, Chicago. To attend the funeral live stream, please visit our website.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in his name to The Prostate Cancer Foundation, 1250 Fourth Street, Santa Monica, California 90401, www.pcf.org
Arrangements by Chicago Jewish Funerals - Skokie Chapel, 847.229.8822, www.cjfinfo.com
Published by Chicago Tribune on Sep. 14, 2021.