Krasny ventures to bankroll startups

Jan 6, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Michael Krasny, who said he wanted to spend more time in his woodshop when he turned over the reins at CDW Computer Centers Inc. two years ago, apparently has discovered that furniture-making doesn’t fully satisfy his entrepreneurial impulses.

Northbrook officials say Mr. Krasny plans to launch a venture capital operation with a group of investors on land he owns in the northern suburb. The details are sketchy, but Mr. Krasny has approached the village about constructing a two- or three-story office building for the group near the southwest corner of Dundee Road and Skokie Boulevard.

Village Manager John Novinson says he doesn’t know the names of the other investors involved, the types of businesses they plan to invest in or the amount of money the group would commit. But he notes that the building would be large enough to accommodate at least some of the start-up businesses that the group bankrolls.

Mr. Krasny was traveling overseas last week and his attorney declined to discuss the project.

The Northbrook project would provide at least a partial answer for those wondering how Mr. Krasny, 49, will occupy himself now that he’s stepped back from day-to-day involvement in Vernon Hills-based CDW, the $4-billion computer equipment distributor he founded in 1984.

He now holds the title of chairman emeritus and remains CDW’s largest shareholder, with 28% of the company’s outstanding shares.

When he turned over the duties of CEO and chairman to John Edwardson in 2001, Mr. Krasny said he wanted to devote more time to his woodworking hobby. But with an estimated personal fortune of $1.6 billion that ranks 122nd on the Forbes 400, he still can make things happen in business.

“Outside of (CDW) he did have a low profile,” says David Manthey, a research analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. in Milwaukee. “I wouldn’t want to bet against him, though. When you look at CDW from any angle, he built an awesome machine there.”

Northbrook officials expressed willingness to assist Mr. Krasny’s venture with $200,000 in property tax abatements for the new office building. The structure would replace a building that now houses Mr. Krasny’s woodworking shop, as well as a vacant commercial building and a billboard on neighboring properties that Mr. Krasny is acquiring.