Henry Tippie, former chairman of Dover Motorsports, dies at 95
DOVER — Henry B. Tippie, a businessman who began a long career in corporate management on the sands of Delaware beaches and was one of the forces behind the former Dover Motorsports, bringing NASCAR into the Kent County, died Sunday at age 95.
An Iowanese who tried his luck with an ad in a trade newspaper, Tippie was well known for being one of the longest-serving executives of Rollins Inc., a global business and consumer services company valued at $2 billion today. today. He was Chairman of the Board of Directors of Dover Motorsports Inc. and Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment Inc., both known as Dover Downs Entertainment Inc. until 2002. Tippie served 25 years on the Board of administration, only resigning once Dover Motorsports was acquired by Speedway Motorsports in December.
“Dover Motorsports would not have been the organization it has become without Henry Tippie,” Denis McGlynn, longtime president and CEO of Dover Motorsports, said in a statement. “His leadership and guidance over the past decades has made the company a cornerstone of entertainment and leisure offerings in the Mid-Atlantic region.”
He was also one of 16 men and women honored on the Wall of Leaders at the New York Stock Exchange.
Jeff Rollins, the son of longtime Tippie associate and founder of Rollins, Inc. John Rollins, best remembers Tippie as a constant force in his life and an excellent teacher in business.
“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know Henry, and I started working with him around 37 years ago. He was a quiet, powerful, positive force in my life. He was known for his humility, consistency, and above all, doing the right thing for the people you work with, no matter what,” Jeff Rollins told the Delaware Business Times. “He was family and his family is part of our family.”
Tippie was born and raised on a farm in Belle Plaine, Iowa, and after graduating from high school enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force at the Pacific Theater during World War II. Upon completing his service, he earned a degree in accounting from the University of Iowa. Two years after graduating, Tippie placed an ad in an accounting trade magazine to see what opportunities were there.
John Rollins, a booming business tycoon who opened a Ford dealership in Lewes a few years earlier, and his brother Wayne, saw the ad and sent in a request. Tippie flew to Washington, DC, and took the bus to Rehoboth Beach and started working in early 1953.
The Rollins brothers founded Rollins Broadcasting and had purchased a radio station in Virginia, and took advantage of falling radio station prices. In turn, the brothers launch programs aimed at the black community. The venture paid off, and within a decade the company was branching out into television.
In 1961, the brothers took the company public, marking the founding of Rollins Inc. As revenues grew, Tippie spearheaded the takeover of Orkin Exterminating Company for $60 million in 1964. In corporate tradition, this was the first US leveraged buyout. At the time, Rollins Inc. was making over $9 million in annual revenue.
Tippie continued his work with Rollins Inc., serving as a director when the company went public in 1968. He served in that position longer than anyone else in the company, including John and Wayne, for about 56 years. He was also the company’s longest-serving CFO for 17 years.
“He had a mind like a steel trap. He knew the risk and he knew how to manage it. It was deeper than having a great mind for finances, it was having the foresight about what lay ahead and planning for it,” Jeff Rollins said. “He had incredible stamina and he wasn’t afraid of hard work. I would get to the point where I thought there was nothing more I could do, and he would be there right next to me, with his sleeves rolled up to carry on.
As Tippie and the Rollins brothers built the world’s first company, Delaware leaders and businesses dreamed of something that would put Dover on the map. Then-Delaware Attorney General David Buckson hoped to create an expressway, and Melvin L. Joseph Construction Company agreed to build it on what was a 204-acre farm and airfield. Rollins would fund the venture, and the first NASCAR event was held in July 1969.
Jeff Rollins said that while his father and uncle often dreamed up new business ideas, Tippie often served as a voice of reason to ensure business stayed on track.
“That’s what made them great partners. My father often joked that Henry was Dr. No, because he said no to everything they thought they wanted to do. But the three worked so well together,” Jeff Rollins said.
The sport continued to grow until two race weekends in 1971, but it was a struggle until the 1990s when ESPN and other broadcast networks began to resume racing. In 2010, the racecourse had a capacity of 135,000 fans. Although attendance has been declining in recent years, television rights were valued at $34.2 million in 2019.
“It was not an easy business to work at times, but I always remember him saying, ‘the sun will rise tomorrow’, just that it was a new day and we had to keep going. moving forward”, McGlynn said. “He was a product of the Depression, so very conservative in management – which was perfect for the company at the time.”
Tippie joined the board of Dover Motorsports in 1996 when the company was first listed on the New York Stock Exchange. He then became president after the death of John Rollins in 2000, having served as vice president at the time.
“I remember a few days after it happened, Henry called me and asked if I was okay with him becoming president. It meant a lot to me, because I just thought that ‘Henry would take the job, but calling and asking showed me the kind of person he was,’ McGlynn said.
Tippie could be a difficult leader, for colleagues who he felt did not appreciate the work he and others were doing. Rollins mentioned that in his early years working in the family business, he would be afraid to call her, “because he was asking about what needed to be done. Other times, he wouldn’t be afraid to mince words on the sloppy job.
But underneath was a heart of gold, and on very rare occasions was able to crack – and take – a joke. As he walked out of the office, he told McGlynn to tell everyone the jerk was going home. So McGlynn did, immediately turning on his heels and announcing it loudly around the office.
“He laughed, and I think that’s the only time I’ve seen him crack up in the office. He had a rare sense of humor, and it took a lot to get him to laugh at anyone or anything,” McGlynn said.
After living in Delaware for more than a decade, he and his wife, Patricia, moved to Austin, Texas, where he owned a 33,000-acre ranch. He would still visit Delaware over the years for NASCAR races and Dover Motorsport board meetings. He enjoyed the cattle on his ranch, watched the Iowa football and basketball teams, and traveled with his family. Tippie had a map full of thumbtacks showing where he and his wife had traveled in their free time.
More importantly, Tippie loved big band music – especially the Glenn Miller Band.
“It lit his fire, and we used to bring Glenn Miller’s band to the casino once a year. He and Patricia loved coming to the casino and dancing the night away,” Jeff Rollins said.
“Don’t ask me how, he managed to become friends with the leader of the band,” McGlynn said in a separate interview. “He was comfortable with a microphone, he would almost liven up the events, and the room would be filled with people of his time, just rocking to the music.”
Last April, Tippie retired from Rollins Inc. after working with the Rollins family for 68 years.
“Without the financial knowledge and leadership provided by Henry, Rollins Inc. would not be what it is today,” Rollins Inc. President Gary W. Rollins said at the time. “His expertise and meticulous attention to detail have helped Rollins Inc. become the largest pest control company in the world. We appreciate Henry and for all he has done for our business. We will continue to honor his legacy and the example he provided of hard work and dedication as we continue to grow and succeed.
Tippie was also known for his generosity to his alma mater, the University of Iowa. He donated $30 million in 1999, making it the largest individual contribution to a university of his time. UI renamed its business school Tippie College of Business in his honor. He and his wife matched $15 million for the Unemployment Insurance fundraising campaign in 2016 and his efforts also resulted in scholarships being awarded to 900 students.
Tippie died at his home in Austin. He and his wife Patricia had three children: Henry II, Linda and Helen.