Developer, Sox part-owner, Dem fundraiser Sheldon Baskin dead at 80

on Jun29

28 June 2017 | 6:13 pm

Sheldon “Shelly” Baskin’s success in real estate allowed him to become part-owner of the White Sox. That was fitting for someone whose earliest memory was of arranging himself just so as a kid, with his head on the windowsill of his family’s South Shore home, so he could hear ballgames on his neighbor’s radio three floors up.

After he died of cancer Monday at his Lincoln Park home, his family headed to a Sox game.

“We just felt like that was something he would be really happy about,” said his wife Judy Wise.

She said Mr. Baskin, 80, will be buried in his White Sox T-shirt.

Known for developing low- and moderate-income housing, he owned Metroplex, Inc. which at its peak managed approximately 15,000 rental units and had 500 employees. The company operated the Marshall Field Garden Apartments near North and Sedgwick for 20 years, from the early 1990s till around 2012.

He also was one of the partners who built the futuristic, Bertrand Goldberg-designed River City complex at 800 S. Wells and owned property in Bolivia, Honduras, Uruguay and Park City, Utah, relatives said.

Sheldon Baskin, who was a part-owner of the White Sox, with Sox legend Minnie Minoso. | Supplied photo

“He was very successful, you know, financially successful, but always, always wanted to provide housing for people who needed it, were less fortunate,” his wife said.

“I have never known a more generous person,” said Marvin Zonis, a friend and professor emeritus at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Young Sheldon Baskin. | Supplied photo

Mr. Baskin was a major fundraiser for Democrats. The Baskins hosted events for then-Sen. Barack Obama at their home.

Young Shelly attended O’Keefe grade school and the University of Chicago Lab School until his family moved to Highland Park. His father Samuel, born in Rogachev, Russia, helped found the law firm of Baskin, Server, Berke and Weinstein.

In the mid-1950s, as president of the Covenant Club of Illinois, his father met newsmakers who addressed the club, including opera diva Maria Callas and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. “The Standard Club was more ritzy, for German Jews,” Mr. Baskin said in a 2016 interview posted online with the StoryCorps oral history project, while Covenant “had more Eastern European Jews, but better food and more interesting people.”

Mr. Baskin’s mother Hadassah once recalled a night when Callas visited the club but wouldn’t sing. “She had split her zipper, and I quickly got the secretary of the club to bring me a needle and thread. . . .I started sewing her zipper,” she said in a Chicago Jewish History newsletter, “and [the tenor] Giuseppe Di Stefano tore off the button from his vest, and he said, ‘OK, now sew me!’ Anyway, that loosened her up, and she sang something.”

Mr. Baskin met his future wife 48 years ago.

“He was very good-looking and very smart,” she said.

He’d graduated summa cum laude from Princeton and earned a law degree from Harvard and a Ph.D from the London School of Economics.

“He was incredibly generous,” his wife said. “He just wanted value.”

Mr. Baskin liked sushi. But, when he calculated the cost per piece, he decided it was a bad bargain, according to his son Jon. He preferred the Belden Deli over a fancy restaurant.

“Most of his clothes were giveaways from White Sox spring training,” his son said.

It wasn’t unusual to find him “sitting at the kitchen table at 2 in the morning with four boxes of cereal,” his son said. “He used to like to mix all the boxes of cereal [in a bowl], a stack of papers in front of him, his headphones on to listen to talk radio, the TV on in the distance where he’s got the sports shows on, always ready to drop it all to have a deep conversation.”

Mr. Baskin went to “every” Olympics, his wife said, and paid special attention to track and field events. He’d run track for Highland Park High School.

He was on the board of the Baskin Family Foundation and served as president of Am Shalom temple in Glencoe. He also was a director of Business and Professional People for the Public Interest.

Mr. Baskin enjoyed the family vacation home in Union Pier, Michigan, as well as brownies and flourless chocolate cake.

He is also survived by his children Kim Baskin, Young Chalker and Colin Hayes and two grandchildren. A funeral service is planned for 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Shalom Memorial Park in Arlington Heights.

Sheldon Baskin, wife Judy Wise and family. | Supplied photo

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