Business leader, philanthropist Michael J. Cudahy has died at 97

Michael J. Cudahy, a businessman, philanthropist, tinkerer and visionary who helped build one of Wisconsin’s most successful businesses and then gave away tens of millions of dollars to aid the renaissance of Milwaukee’s arts, culture, education and civic scene, died Friday.

He was 97.

Joel Brennan of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, former CEO of Discovery World which was created by Cudahy, announced Cudahy’s death before the start of a mayoral candidates debate Monday morning at the Italian Community Center.

“I would ask for a moment of silence but that really wasn’t Mike’s way of doing things,” Brennan said.

Milwaukee businessman and philanthropist Michael J. Cudahy in a 2007 photo. Behind him rises the Hoberman Genome Sculpture and Double Helix Staircase at Discovery World at Wisconsin Pier, a project he was instrumental in developing.

“Mike would have looked at the two candidates here today and say, ‘you better not screw things up.'”

Tim Sheehy, president of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce, called Cudahy “Milwaukee’s entrepreneur,” whose influence will be felt for decades. 

“Marquette Medical Systems was a longtime MMAC member, and its legacy lives on today in the success of GE Healthcare,” Sheehy said in a statement.

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