What is in this article?:
- The Visionary: East Bank Club Founder Daniel Levin
- Law, Politics and Real Estate
- The Origins of the Club
- Still Hard at Work
- Sidebar: The Famous and a Future President Work Out at East Bank Club
- Sidebar: Longtime Employees Lead to Success of East Bank Club
- Sidebar: Club Industry Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients
East Bank Club founder and CEO Daniel Levin is the 2013 recipient of Club Industry's Lifetime Achievement Award. He will receive the award Oct. 24 at the Club Industry Conference and Exhibition in Chicago. Photo by Brian McConkey.
Still Hard at Work
Both of Levin’s companies, East Bank Club and The Habitat Co., continue to fuel his fire. He does play golf (he didn’t take up the sport until he was 65), and he does travel. He and his wife, Fay Hartog-Levin, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to The Netherlands from 2009 to 2011, recently went to France for a vacation and to see one of his daughters who lives there. (Levin also has another daughter who lives in the Chicago area and a son who is a senior attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, DC.)
While in France, though, Levin responded to an email from Meredith about a minor question regarding the club. Work is never far behind, and Levin is in on all the major decisions at the club.
“I work every day because I enjoy it,” Levin says. “I don’t feel the stress of starting from scratch and building a business. No one can fire me, and I need two jobs in order to feel safe.”
Levin and his wife drive together to work every morning. He parks the car in the garage at East Bank Club in what is no doubt one of the best parking spots in all of Chicago. While she heads to work at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Levin might eat breakfast at the club or chat with club executives for a quick rundown before heading across the street to his office at The Habitat Co.
Levin turned 83 in July, and the thought of handing over the reins of the club has popped up a time or two. But for right now, he is still in charge.
“It’s going to happen,” Levin says about retirement. “I enjoy what I’m doing, and everyone seems to get along with me. But I’m not going to live forever, and I have to think about an arrangement of how I’ll be replaced, as you think about in any job.”
Meredith does not see Levin retiring anytime soon.
“He’s fascinated by every aspect of business,” Meredith says. “He has boundless energy, an interest in every detail. He can just keep going as long as his health holds out.”
And why would Levin retire now? Four office and residential projects not related to The Habitat Co. within blocks of East Bank Club could produce a gold mine of future members. And, in addition to The Habitat Co.’s Kingsbury Plaza high-rise apartments that went up in 2007, the company is completing a $140 million 43-story apartment tower called Hubbard Place, due to open in October, right next door to East Bank Club.
“He’s not one that’s ever wanted to be involved in self-aggrandizement,” Hartog-Levin says. “He didn’t build the club or other buildings as monuments to himself. He built all of these things to make other people happy and comfortable.”
On this August day at East Bank Club, Levin is dressed in a summer tan suit and tie with a matching handkerchief in his suit pocket. He pops into the pro shop before noon and mulls over purchasing a cashmere sweater for his wife. Soon, he joins the executive staff for lunch at the club’s grill, getting up a time or two to speak to members he has spotted. After lunch, he steps into his modest office at the club for a quick video interview.
The interview is done, yet he has more work to do. A 1:30 p.m. meeting at The Habitat Co. is fast approaching. Levin says his goodbyes at East Bank Club before he steps out through a side door, crosses the street and heads to his office, anonymously.