A Chat With Jim CraneThe Astros aren’t the only thing keeping him busy
By Melanie Saxton
Houston is a great, vibrant town,” says Jim Crane, who is chairman of Crane Worldwide Logistics and former Chairman, CEO, and majority shareholder of Eagle Global Logistics (EGL). “If you work hard and pay attention, you’ll do well.”
And he should know – Crane has been in Houston 30 years. He applies himself to his robust corporation and also seeks out other, smaller ventures. A new logistics business already has 1200 employees onboard. An additional business, Champion Energy Services, is the fastest-growing retail electric provider in the nation.
But Crane is perhaps best known to Houstonians as the new owner and chairman of the Astros. “We’re a big market town— now close to the third largest, if not the third-largest city — in the nation. We have a nice ball park to match,” he says. The Astros held their draft this past June. “Our general manager, Jeff Luhnow, pulled a coup with shortstop Carlos Correa, the top overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. We were able to maximize the rest of the picks by bringing onboard Correa.” Crane anticipates building the team back up with young talent.
Baseball means a lot to him. “I played as a kid and wasn’t the best student. But I got a baseball scholarship for college. It kept me out of trouble,” says Crane. “I appreciate ex-athletes who understand teamwork and apply themselves in the corporate world. I see this when I hire them, and their work ethic and sports background pairs nicely in business.”
A Bold Plan to Help Kids
Crane is busy with a bold idea that puts kids, the military and baseball together, while improving the city: An adopt-a-park-type plan. “We want to provide places where kids can play baseball for free. At this time we have eight out of 12 commitments to renovate and put advertising in stadiums. The plan is to rebuild 12 city parks to very high standards, then put a manager in each baseball venue. The city can’t afford to refurbish these parks, but Mayor Annise Parker said we could have any we wanted as long as we renovated them,” says Crane.
This requires a major investment. “About $250,000 per field and $250,000 ongoing from each sponsor is what is building this program. Haliburton, Schlumberger and Blue Cross Blue Shield are just a few of our participants.” Crane wants to hire ex-veterans to help run the parks. “Helping the military is a side benefit to this plan.”
With wife Franci at his side, Crane also puts his heart into various nonprofits and causes. “The Houston Astros Wives Gala will be held this year on August 16, raising money for the Houston Area Women’s Center. Astros Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton has emcee’d the signature event in years past. “We are now helping to plan Milo Hamilton’s retirement celebration,” says Crane of the legendary sportscaster, best known for calling play-by-play for seven different Major League Baseball teams since 1953.
Jim is a member of the World Presidents’ Organization and was ranked #1 CEO Golfer in 2006 by Golf Digest. He’s also an active participant in the theater and arts community. Franci is the board chair and a founder of the Houston Cinema Arts Society.
“Former Mayor Bill White put her on the project and she took it from there,” says Crane of his wife, who is an attorney. The Cinema Arts Festival Houston is returning Nov. 7-11, 2012, to showcase films by and about artists in the visual, performing, and literary arts. “Franci also serves on the board of the Museum of Fine Arts,” says Crane.
Find more about the arts at cinemartsociety.org. Visit the Astros’ community upcoming events calendar at houston. astros.mlb.com/hou/community/calendar.jsp.