WRIGLEY, William “Bill”

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William Wrigley III

WRIGLEY, William “Bill” III (1933-1999) was born to Helen Atwater and Philip Knight Wrigley on January 21, 1933. He grew up in Chicago, then attended Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, and was graduated from Yale University in 1954 with a degree in psychology. He served two years of active duty in the United States navy, followed by twenty years in the Reserves. Wrigley first married Alison Hunter in 1957, and they had three children:

  • Alison Wrigley [Rusack] (b. 1958)
  • Philip Wrigley (b. 1961)
  • William, Jr. “Beau” Wrigley (b. 1963)

In 1961, sixteen years before his father’s death, the deed to Santa Catalina Island was passed to him. In 1969 he married Joan Georgine Fisher. That marriage ended in annulment. 1981 he married attorney and environmentalist, Julie Burns. For 38 years, Wrigley served as president of his father’s chewing gum company.

Wrigley died of pneumonia on March 8, 1999 in Chicago. A memorial service for him was held at Avalon’s Casino theater on March 29, 1999. His son, William Wrigley, succeeded him as president of the Wrigley Company.



In the News~

October 1, 1969 [Chicago Tribune]: “Wife divorces Wm. Wrigley. Mrs. Alison Hunter Wrigley, 34, was granted a divorce yesterday from William Wrigley, 36, president of the William Wrigley, Jr. Company, and under a settlement she received assets which could be worth in excess of one million dollars. The divorce was granted by Judge Raymond P. Drymalski in Divorce Court on her complaint, which was amended by yesterday to seek a divorce on grounds of desertion, instead of a separation maintenance. She testified they were married June 1, 1957, and separated June 9, 1967. The 23-page settlement was made part of the court record by her attorney, Norman Becker, and his attorney, Arthur Morse. Under major provisions she is to receive $500,000 in lieu of alimony, half to be paid on the entry of the decree and the balance in installments within 10 years and the right to live for 10 years in Wrigley's apartment at 1500 Lake Shore Drive.”


June 11, 1976 [Chicago tribune]: “The wife of William Wrigley, president of the chewing gum company, sued him Thursday in Circuit Court for separation maintenance or divorce. Joan Wrigley, 41, who was married in 1970 to Wrigley, 43, on Catalina Island, Cal., charged him with desertion and with mental cruelty by humiliating her in closing her charge accounts with Chicago area merchants. She also charged that he had written numerous letters to individual businesses saying he would not be responsible for payment of purchases she made. Earlier this year, Mrs. Wrigley filed suit in Circuit Court to set aside a prenuptial agreement she signed six days before her wedding. The agreement life to Wrigley's discretion the amount of wealth he would leave her in the event of his death. She said he had broken his promise to destroy the agreement six months after they were married. In response to that suit, Wrigley asserted he has a spendable income of from $100,000 to $125,000 a year and because of her spending he was operating in the red. Her attorney, Sam Rinelia, called Wrigley's charge ludicrous. He said Wrigley has an income of more than $400,000 a year and that "with all his millions, he treated her like his father treated the Chicago Cubs—long on neglect and short on funds." William Wrigley is president of the William Wrigley, Jr. Co., and his father, Philip K. Wrigley, is virtually the sole owner of the Cubs. The marriage was the third for Mrs. Wrigley and the second for Wrigley, who in 1969 divorced Alison Hunter Wrigley. Wrigley and his present wife have no children.”


May 7, 1980 [The Telegraph]: “Chewing gum heiress Helen A. Wrigley disinherited her daughter-in-law because she considered her an extravagant fortune hunter who lavished filet mignon on her dog, a lawyer for the Wrigley estate says. Testifying Tuesday at proceedings brought by Joan Wrigley to overturn the disinheritance, attorney I. Stirling Maxwell said Helen Wrigley considered the younger woman wasteful. In addition to citing the example of feeding her pet dog filet mignon, Maxwell said Joan Wrigley once allegedly bought a few thousand dollars worth of lingerie without trying any of it on. Maxwell told Probate Judge Anthony J. Kogut that both he and Helen Wrigley heard reports of the younger woman's talk to a beautician in a posh Michigan Avenue salon about her attempts to marry her now estranged husband. Joan Wrigley allegedly said she had a "fat fish on the hook and wanted to land him," Maxwell testified. Joan and William Wrigley were married i 1970 and were divorced last year [1979]. William Wrigley, the owner of the Chicago Cubs National League baseball team, inherited the Wm. Wrigley Co. from his father, Philip K. Wrigley. He testified the late Mrs. Wrigley once told him, "Let's face it Bud, Joan is just waiting for Phil and me to die so she can take over the family assets." Among the instances of alleged wastefulness Maxwell referred to were" Joan Wrigley once told a butcher who asked what to do with cattle raised on the family's Wisconsin estate. "Simply take out the filet mignon and throw the rest away," Maxwell said; She once left her pet dog with the caretaker of the estate, along with filet mignon for its meals, he testified; She once purchased $2000 to $3000 worth of lingerie in Arizona without trying the clothing on. ASked if she wasn't concerned about fit, Joan Wrigley reportedly replied, "No. If they don't fit, I'll simply throw them out," the lawyer testified. The amendment which wrote Joan Wrigley out of Helen Wrigley's will was dated April 21, 1976, a year after Helen Wrigley suffered a serious stroke. Before the amendment, the will granted Joan Wrigley only three pieces of jewelry worth about $10,000. Joan Wrigley has contended her mother-in-law was not mentally competent to write her out of the will.”


December 15, 1980 [People]: "Once upon a time money was no problem for Joan Wrigley. As a child, she used to climb into her grandfather's lap and whisper, "Grandpa, I've spent my allowance." Millionaire bakery owner Frank Fischer would peel off $10 and tell her, "My dear, I hope you'll never be broke." These days it would take a lot of those $10 bills to salvage Joan Fischer Devine Dexheimer Wrigley, 46. The Chicago socialite owes lawyers more than half a million dollars—and her miscellaneous debts add up to another $500,000, at least. Among her creditors are Elizabeth Arden ($22,000), a Chicago boutique ($18,000) and her ex-husband ($38,000 in a court judgment). Last week, in the cruelest chapter of her riches-to-rags career, Joan Wrigley was evicted from the $400,000 10-room condominium she had occupied for a decade. Now she is living in a nearby townhouse owned by her son. "I could give up and crawl into a hole, but I don't want to do that," Wrigley says gamely. "Somehow, somewhere, I feel a court is going to say, 'This should not be.' ”

The courts, in fact, made Joan Wrigley what she is today. Her plight goes back to 1970, when the twice-divorced Joan became engaged to William Wrigley, now 48, heir to the chewing-gum-and-baseball (Chicago Cubs) fortune. Bill, who had given his first wife a generous divorce settlement, asked Joan to sign a prenuptial agreement that he could leave her as much — or as little — as he wished in his will. "I discussed this with my folks after the first divorce," Bill explains. "In the event of my death, I felt that the family stock should be protected." Joan signed the paper — as she tells it — because she was deeply in love and eager to provide stability for her children. "Bill and I didn't go out much, and when we did we'd look for the nearest potted palm and not talk to anybody else," she recalls.

"You couldn't expect that to go on forever," observes one friend. It didn't. Within five years the Wrigleys were squabbling over the two most volatile subjects in a marriage: money and sex. "First he stopped giving me an allowance, so I had to charge everything," Joan says. "Whenever I'd ask for something, he'd retreat into complaints about my spending. We had a wonderful marriage as long as he wasn't pressed, but when I reminded him he'd promised this or that, he would change. And there was a sex problem." She claims she persuaded him to go to her psychiatrist and that Bill took along an adding machine and "yards of tapes" to demonstrate her extravagance. "His attitude was, 'How dare you want to discuss sex problems?' " she contends. "From then on communication went downhill."

One day in 1976, while they were still living together in the North Side con-do, Bill Wrigley was served with papers from a lawsuit filed by Joan. Its purpose was to set aside their prenuptial agreement. "I was floored," he recalls. "I went to my lawyers with it." What followed was 10 suits and countersuits in two states. Bill sued for an annulment in Wisconsin, where he has legal residence. Joan countersued for divorce in Illinois. She also charged her husband with adultery and fraud (and then filed for bankruptcy herself).

Bill won every case. A Wisconsin judge declared that Joan's two previous divorces, both quickies obtained in Alabama, were invalid, so that her marriage to Bill was illegal from the start. Although Joan claims she contributed $1,700 a month to household expenses — and that she came up with the idea for Wrigley's successful Big Red chewing gum, introduced in 1976 — she was denied alimony. The Wisconsin court ordered her to repay the $38,000 it cost Bill Wrigley to educate her son Chris, and last week, after years of legal delays, ordered her out of the apartment. "It's not an eviction," Wrigley insists. "She lived there rent-free for five years while the case was in court."

These days Joan talks wistfully of the perks of being a Wrigley. "Limousines, butlers and maids in attendance at every turn," she sighs. "I liked the preferential treatment." On a business trip with Bill, she remembers, she lacked a vaccination required to enter Australia. He persuaded the U.S. ambassador to intervene on their behalf. All that is gone. Thanks to her family, Joan Wrigley won't be joining the breadline, but she still has the debts to contend with — not to mention the bitterness. "Someday I'd like to teach a course to help women avoid the position I find myself in," says Joan. "Sure, love is wonderful, but unless you protect yourself you're left with nothing but a great big hole. And you're the one who's given them the shovel.”


March 9, 1999 [LAT]: “William Wrigley, chairman of the world's largest chewing gum company and a major benefactor of USC and the university's research facilities on Santa Catalina Island, died of pneumonia Monday in Chicago. He was 66. For years, his family owned virtually the entire 42,000-acre island and the Chicago Cubs baseball team, which trained there until 1952. The family also built and owned the imposing Mediterranean mansion on South Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena that now serves as headquarters for the Tournament of Roses. Born January 21, 1933, in Chicago, Wrigley was the son of Philip Knight "P.K." Wrigley and the grandson of William Wrigley, Jr. It was Wrigley, Jr. who founded the chewing gum company that bore his name. He went on to make millions manufacturing and marketing products such as Spearmint and Doublemint gums. Wrigley, Jr., who lived most of the year in Chicago, built the Pasadena mansion in 1914 as a summer home. Two years later, the same year that he bought the Cubs, he purchased all of Catalina except the square mile that makes up the town of Avalon for $2 million.

William Wrigley, who was reared in Chicago, attended Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Ma. and graduated from Yale University in 1954 before serving as a reserve officer in the Navy. He joined the Wrigley Company in 1956, two years before the family donated the mansion and its 4-1/2 acres of grounds to the Tournament of Roses. Rising rapidly through the firm, Wrigley was named president and chief executive officer of the family company in 1961. He also served as director of Texaco and as chairman of the Santa Catalina Island Company, which managed the family holdings on the island. In 1975 under Wrigley's direction, the family deeded 86% of the island to the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy, a non profit organization founded to administer and preserve the island's natural resources. In 1981 he sold the Cubs to the Tribune Co., publisher of the Chicago Tribune. Wrigley, a member of the USC board of Trustees and a longtime contributor to the university's endowments, donated $5 million in 1995 for the establishment of the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on the island. The 1,500 students at the institute study a broad range of ecological issues. Wrigley was also a life trustee of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the Chicago area and served as a member of the advisory board of the Center for Sports Medicine at Northwestern Medical School.

He was first married in 1957 to Alison Hunter. They had three children, Alison Elizabeth, Philip Knight, and William Jr., before their marriage ended in divorce in 1969. The following year in a ceremony on the island, he married Joan Georgine Fisher. That marriage ended in annulment. In November 1981 he married Julie Burns, an environmentalist who has been active in the work of the institute on Catalina. He leaves his wife and children.”