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Helped law firm go global
Blog News | 2008/02/05 22:11

Thomas A. Reynolds Jr. led Winston & Strawn on a path of global expansion and brought in politically powerful partners, including former Gov. James Thompson and former U.S. Atty. Dan Webb.

He was also part of the ownership group that moved the Milwaukee Braves to Atlanta in the mid-1960s and chairman of the authority that built the stadium where the Chicago White Sox play.

Mr. Reynolds, 79, died of complications of Parkinson's disease Thursday, Feb. 14, in his Winnetka home, son Thomas A. Reynolds III said.

The second of three generations to practice law at Winston, Mr. Reynolds was the firm's managing director from 1969 to 1989 and then chairman until his retirement in 1992.

During his years at the helm, Winston expanded from 70 lawyers in Chicago to about 400 lawyers in five countries.

"He built this law firm, it's fair to say," said Thompson, who succeeded Mr. Reynolds as Winston's chairman. "He put it on the map."

A year after Mr. Reynolds took over, the firm opened an office in Washington, D.C. In 1980, Mr. Reynolds oversaw a merger that established a New York office.

"His belief was that the firm that decided to stay regional would not be able to compete," said his son, a partner at Winston.

Mr. Reynolds hired a string of legal and political heavyweights who attracted big-spending clients. Shortly after Thompson left the U.S. attorney's office in 1975, Mr. Reynolds signed him to Winston. Throughout Thompson's tenure as governor, Mr. Reynolds chaired his finance committee.

Thompson said he considered 10 law firms after leaving the governor's office in 1991 and was swayed by Mr. Reynolds and his promise that Thompson could take over as Winston & Strawn's chairman upon Mr. Reynolds' retirement.

"He was able to inspire other people, and he had a great head for business," Thompson said.

Mr. Reynolds also was instrumental in the hiring of former vice president Walter Mondale, former Illinois Commerce Commission chairman Michael Hasten and Webb, the former U.S. Attorney for the Chicago region.

In the late 1980s, Thompson appointed Mr. Reynolds to lead the Illinois Sports Finance Authority, which oversaw the construction of a new White Sox ballpark, now U.S. Cellular Field. Today, Thompson heads the authority.

A lifelong fan of baseball, Mr. Reynolds was part of a syndicate of Chicago businessmen led by William Bartholomay that bought the Milwaukee Braves for $5.5 million in 1962.

"Frankly, they did it because the Cubs weren't for sale," Mr. Reynolds' son said, noting his father's lifelong fealty to the North Side team. "For dad, it was the love of baseball."

A year after buying the Braves, the ownership group began negotiations that led to the team's move to Atlanta in 1966, sparking legal disputes and the long-standing ire of fans in Milwaukee. The group sold the team to Ted Turner in the mid-1970s.

Mr. Reynolds' father joined Winston & Strawn in 1927, following his graduation from Georgetown University Law School.

Mr. Reynolds grew up in Edgewater and attended Loyola Academy and Georgetown, where he was a top tennis player before being sidelined by injury. He graduated from University of Michigan's law school and married the former Suzanne FitzSimons in 1951.

Mr. Reynolds sat on a number of boards, including those of Gannett and Smurfit-Stone.

He was a supporter of The Big Shoulders Fund, which provides educational opportunities to impoverished inner-city students, from its inception in 1986.

A convivial executive, Mr. Reynolds often held court after a long day's work in the bar of the Mid-Day Club in what is now the Chase Tower.

"He used to say, 'You might as well have fun in this life because if you don't, no one's going to want to be with you in the first place,' " his son said.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Reynolds also is survived by sons Sherman, Timothy and Stephen; daughters Kathy Lanctot, Suzy Hick and Ellen Largay; sisters Sheila Berner, Susan Sullivan and Mary Ellen; 37 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Two daughters, Julie Shaw and Clare Joyce, preceded him in death.

Mass will be said at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Sts. Faith, Hope & Charity, 191 Linden St., Winnetka.



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