Landon Rowland, who led the expansion of Kansas City Southern Railway and was instrumental in establishing the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, died Monday after a long illness. He was 78.
“Landon was the sort of person who touched the lives of thousands of people he had never even met,” said Brent Schondelmeyer, a deputy director of the Local Investment Commission, an area nonprofit where Rowland was chairman for 23 years.
That nonprofit, better known as LINC, works to improve the lives of area children and families. As such, Rowland and the commission pushed to create the health foundation when the for-profit HCA hospital system bought the Health Midwest hospital group in 2003.
When Rowland, a graduate of Harvard Law School, thought HCA wasn’t living up to its sale commitments for hospital improvements and care for the needy, he pushed the foundation in 2009 to sue HCA. A judge recently ordered HCA to pay $433 million as a result of the suit, a judgment HCA is appealing.
In his corporate life, Rowland led the railway along with Kansas City Southern Industries, Stilwell Financial Inc. and Janus Capital Group. A signature achievement was being part of the team that acquired a major Mexican railroad to extend Kansas City Southern’s reach, said his son, Josh Rowland.
Morton Sosland, a longtime friend from serving on the Kansas City Southern board, agreed.
“The other big railroads in the country are east-west operations,” said Sosland. “It was very important for Kansas City Southern to cement its north-south line. Landon was bold enough, as the underdog, to win the bidding for the Mexican railroad” known as TFM, for Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana Railway.
Josh Rowland said his father’s philanthropic work defined him, and again, Sosland agreed.
“He was very committed to helping the disadvantaged. You couldn’t argue with him about that,” said Sosland, whose company, Sosland Publishing, produces Baking & Snack and Milling & Baking News.
Kansas City’s mayor, Sly James, said, “I was terribly sorry to hear about Landon passing away. He was a major voice and influence for Kansas City in so many ways. He was always so gracious to me and my wife and we have a special sadness for his wife, Sarah, during this time.”
Sosland, a major supporter of the Nelson, also noted that Landon and Sarah Rowland had contributed greatly to the museum’s American art collection and the renovation of its gallery on the second floor of the Nelson. When they moved to the country, they became interested in horses and supported the American Royal.
“We’re lucky he moved here after law school” to join the firm of Watson, Ess, Marshall & Enggas, said Sosland. “He’s done a lot of wonderful things for Kansas City.”
Those things include getting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum going, said Schondelmeyer, who said Rowland had been friends with Buck O’Neil, the Negro Leagues baseball star.
Rowland also is the subject of this year’s Heroes Project at Gladstone Elementary School in Kansas City. (Scrapbooks about Rowland prepared as part of the program can be found below this article.) The school’s vice principal, Tearo Condit, helped start the program in 2002 at Primitivo Garcia Elementary, where heroes have included the school’s namesake, O’Neil and Ollie Gates.
Josh Rowland said his father also had been “very excited to help dynamic new businesses” through Lead Bank in the Crossroads, which his parents bought in 2005.
He said another defining characteristic of his father “was that it was never about him, but about whatever the enterprise was.”
“He was always proud to be part of these amazing groups of people who were committed to a project, whether that was artistic, civic or business. He was always ready to serve as a sponsor and advocate and cheerleader.”
Besides heading the Local Investment Commission, Rowland’s civic roles included serving as chairman of Swope Ridge Geriatric Center and the Metropolitan Performing Arts Fund. He was a director of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, the American Royal Association, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and the Orthomolecular Medicine & Research Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Kansas. He was a trustee of the Linda Hall Library, the Midwest Research Institute, the Liberty Memorial Association and the Committee for Economic Development.
In business, he was chairman of Janus Capital Group from 2000 to 2004 and a director from 2000 to 2011. Before July 2000, he was chairman, president and chief executive officer of Kansas City Southern Industries. In July 2000, the transportation and financial services operations of KCSI were separated and the financial services operations were incorporated in Stilwell Financial Inc., of which he was chairman, president and CEO.
In September 2003, all Stilwell Financial subsidiaries were merged into Stilwell and the name was changed to Janus Capital Group, where Rowland continued as chairman until January 2004 and as director until May 2011.
Rowland joined Kansas City Southern Industries in 1980, became president and chief operating officer in 1983 and CEO in 1987, continuing in that capacity until 2000. Rowland was president and CEO of Kansas City Southern Railway from 1990 to 1991 and chairman from 1987 to 2000.
During his time as president and CEO, the company’s transportation division, Kansas City Southern Railway, acquired Mid-South Railway, Gateway Western Railway, Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana Railway in Mexico and the operating rights to the Panama Canal Railway. The financial services division acquired Janus Capital, Berger Funds, Nelson Money Managers and INTECH, and spun off DST Systems in 1995. Rowland was chairman of the board of DST Systems Inc. from 1983 to 1995.
Before joining Kansas City Southern Industries, Rowland was a partner in the law firm of Watson, Ess, Marshall & Enggas of Kansas City from 1962 to 1980 and was a professorial lecturer in antitrust law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1977 and 1978. He also was an arbitrator and member of the American Arbitration Association.
Rowland received a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in 1959 and his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1962.