Here’s to the Big Deal-Makers and the Grinders

By Joe Sweeney

Outstanding executive achievement puts Kansas City in the headlines nationally in 2021. But many smaller companies stand out, as well.

Each new year always seems to get off to a slow start, and colleagues in media typically tend to dread December and January. We’ve adapted at Ingram’s a bit to make these two of our favorite annual editions. We’ll never set records for ad sales in these two winter month issues, but every five years since we bought the publication we’ve released the largest business publication in America that January with our anniversary editions. 

Jack Cashill and I interviewed Steve Forbes at the Intercontinental Hotel on the Plaza in early 2009 and after our discussion I handed him our 200-page 35th Anniversary Edition of Ingram’s.

You haven’t lived until you hear Forbes say “Holy S—! What an issue!” We’re in our 48th year, and be forewarned: Our mission in 2024 is to shatter the record. In the publishing industry, every issue feels a bit like a victory, but we love anniversaries and dedicate this edition each year to recognizing hundreds of organizations that are celebrating big anniversaries.

Of course we’re pleased and proud to have recently released our 25th annual Philanthropy Special Edition, and in your hands is the first issue I can recall with the CEO of an organization on the cover after his predecessor had been showcased in that spot the previous month.

Michelle and I were friends with Landon Rowland and she served on a board with him for years. Landon was not only a brilliant businessman, he was intense and manifested an arsenal of influence and a fairly robust amount of authority. Mike Haverty succeeded Landon as chair and CEO of Kansas City Southern, and last month was named with his bride Marlys as our Philanthropist of the Year. This month we’re pleased to name Mike’s colleague
Pat Ottensmeyer as Ingram’s Executive of the Year. Clearly, 2021 was the year of Kansas City Southern, and few realize their transaction with Canadian Pacific was the largest transportation M&A deal in America last year. We believe the Cerner sale to Oracle was the largest tech-sector transaction in the country last year as well.

Now most years, I’d start a rant that our area businesses should be the acquirer, and not the acquired. I still have a lump in my throat a bit over the Sprint sale to T-Mobile. But life goes on, and so shall we.

The great news about the Cerner transaction sale to Oracle is that it appears the investment in the Kansas City region could be pumped up more seriously. Let’s hope Cerner, the anchor of our tech sector, with more than 13,500 employees in the area, stays and plays and continues to grow and thrive. 

The transaction between KC Southern and Canadian Pacific is an amazing story. Never can I recall a succession plan that was healthier for our region than this one. The routing map of this enterprise on Page 15 literally ties its rail system through Kansas City. This plan was much to the credit of Mike Haverty, and he should be known perhaps as structuring the most ambitious business plan in KC history. Ottensmeyer got the deal done close to 15 years after Haverty’s vision, but Haverty retained the largest individual holdings of the company’s stock and had the last laugh.

I’m proud to know these icons and it’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to align. The difference between Haverty, Ottensmeyer, Cliff Illig and folks like them is only a couple of zeros behind the net worth. The trait I find unique among successful executives is that they’re grounded and have fought their way through challenges. Most had a humble start. 

To navigate the Biggest Business Deals feature that begins on Page 19, one may feel a collective loss of well-established companies that have enjoyed skyrocket growth. What folks should realize with such a vast number of private equity and venture-capital firms, organizations tend to stay put where operations are established. In the case of what is now Canadian Pacific Kansas City, its all but assured that nearly all system rails run through our region and the strength of this 200-year-old industry has exponentially expanded with this transaction.

Pat Ottensmeyer may not be as well-known in this region—outside of transportation and chief executive circles—as is Bob Page at The University of Kansas Health System, but he certainly earned his spot succeeding Page, who was our inaugural Executive of the Year in 2021.

Their names may overshadow those of smaller-company owners who get it done every day, often with exceptional results. You’ll see many of them noted in this edition’s Milestones feature.

Operating a small business will never position Michelle and me to live as large as the icons of business this great region has grown and come to respect. But I will say this: There are few jobs I can think of that provide the opportunity to know, study and report on the greatest leaders of our time the way mine does. It is with pleasure to serve this great city and region as a steward of business and I hope to have this pleasure to serve for years to come.

I’d like to personally congratulate each leader and company recognized in this edition of Ingram’s. I’m confident our readers will appreciate them, too.

About the author


Joe Sweeney

Editor-In-Chief & Publisher

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