Bravo! Lifetime Achievement Award Winner 2010: Stephen Marcus, chairman of The Marcus Corp.

Stephen Marcus, chairman of The Marcus Corp.

Milwaukee-based Marcus Corp. has grown dramatically under the leadership of Stephen Marcus.

The company was started by Ben Marcus, Stephen’s father, in 1935, when Ben opened a single screen movie theater in Ripon, Wis.

Stephen Marcus became chief executive officer of the company in 1988 and grew its two divisions, Marcus Theaters and Marcus Hotels and Resorts, into substantial entertainment enterprises.

Today, the company’s Marcus Theatres division owns or manages nearly 700 movie screens at locations in seven different states. Its Marcus Hotels and Resorts division operates 20 hotels and resorts in 10 different states, including the Pfister Hotel, Hilton Milwaukee City Center, InterContinental Milwaukee and the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva.

For his work in growing the company, Stephen Marcus, chairman of Milwaukee-based Marcus Corp., is the recipient of the 2010 BizTimes Milwaukee Bravo! Entrepreneur Lifetime Achievement award.

“This award is quite flattering,” Marcus said. “Almost embarrassingly so, because I could never do this on my own. I’ve been very lucky in that regard. I’ve always had a great team of people working with me.”

Marcus credits the company’s success to the team of people working at Marcus Corp. and the willingness and flexibility the company has had in adapting to the needs of the people, as well as changing technologies.

“My father started with one, one-screen theater. Now, we build multiple screens, and focus on making the movie-going experience an all-encompassing entertainment destination,” he said. “The technology is newer and better, and that is never going to stop changing.”

The importance of having good employees was understood by his father, Marcus said.

“He always told me to make sure I found good people, because if you don’t have good people, than you cannot grow,” he said.

Greg Marcus, Stephen’s son and the third-generation Marcus to take over as president and chief executive officer for the company, will have to continue to adapt to the changing technology environment with the switch to digital film and the demand for 3-D movies, Stephen said.

“The only constant that has been and always will be in the movie business is popcorn, candy and soda,” Stephen said. “The rest we need to adapt to in order to continue to provide our customers with the first- class experience they deserve.”

Part of giving customers a first-class experience is also giving back to the communities in which they live, Stephen said.

“I was lucky enough to have a brilliant man for a father who always believed in giving back to the communities where he did business,” Stephen said. “That he instilled in me, and I’ve tried to instill that in my children as well. This is our home, this is where we live, and I truly believe it’s the responsibility of any successful company to give back.”

Stephen said he will remain chairman of the Marcus Corp. board of directors and will continue to be a resource and a mentor for his son. Stephen also plans to continue to fulfill his civic responsibilities and spend more time with his grandchildren.

“I’m not finished by any means, but it is organizationally important to allow the next generation to gain confidence in their decision-making skills,” Stephen said. “Greg is off to a great start, and I’m confident that the organization will continue to be successful under his leadership. And that’s really it. My lifetime of achievement has been because I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by great people.”

Marcus resides in River Hills with his wife, Janice. They have three sons and nine grandchildren.

By accepting the BizTimes Bravo! Entrepreneur Lifetime Achievement Award, Marcus joins an impressive club of past recipients of the award, including: Richard Pieper Sr. of PPC Partners Inc.; Harry Quadracci of Quad/Graphics Inc.; Joseph Zilber of Towne Realty Inc.; Robert Kern of Generac Power Systems Inc.; and George Dalton of Fiserv Inc. and Novo 1 Inc.

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