Carl Pohlad was born in 1915 in Iowa, the third child in a family of eight. His father was a railroad brakeman who worked hard to support his large family. Pohlad claims that experiencing poverty in his youth was a true motivator. “In our little town, there were two classes of people. The laborers lived in the low lying part of town, while the wealthier people lived on the hill. I had a burning desire to live on that hill.”
During his high school years, Pohlad began his working career milking cows on a farm owned by a local banker. He was later required to drive his employer on rounds to collect loan payments. Soon, he was making the collections rounds himself and doing odd jobs at the banker’s office. Pohlad still found time for the sports he loved, starring on the high school football team. He seriously considered playing ball in college. He graduated in 1933 and was soon recruited to play for Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.
Despite the help of a sports scholarship, Pohlad still needed an income to support himself. The used car business he opened prospered, due in part to the skills he had gained while working in the bank. He used his profits to purchase a fledgling finance company in Dubuque, where he worked until he joined the Army in World War II. He served as an infantryman in France, Austria, and Germany, earning several awards and a battlefield commission.
Upon his return to the USA, his partner had purchased Bank Shares, Inc. Marquette National was among the three banks in this new acquisition. When Pohlad’s partner died in 1955, Carl Pohlad became President and CEO of Bank Shares and Marquette National. Since then, Pohlad has acquired several regional banks and has branched out into the soft drink industry under the Pepsi Cola name. His banking enterprise now encompasses 12 states and includes the real estate company United Properties. He is also the proud owner of the Minnesota twins Baseball team, which won the World Series in both 1987 and 1991.
Over the years, Pohlad’s definition of success has evolved. “Today, I equate success more with living comfortable and in reasonably good health, while creating a meaningful legacy, not necessarily financial, for my wife, children, and grandchildren.” What has not changed, though, is his advice to “work hard and look for opportunity in every life experience. We live in a dynamic country where each individual is limited only by his or her personally defined horizon.”