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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

O'NEILL, FRANCIS JOSEPH

O'NEILL, FRANCIS JOSEPH

O'NEILL, FRANCIS JOSEPH "STEVE" (18 Sept. 1899-29 Aug. 1983), businessman and CLEVELAND INDIANS owner, was born in Cleveland son of Hugh O'Neill. He attended Campion College and Notre Dame University. O'Neill's father had started a cartage business which developed into several transportation companies; Steve, like his brothers, worked for several of his family's companies. In 1961, 79 O'Neill family companies merged to form LEASEWAY TRANSPORTATION, of which O'Neill became chairman of the board until 1969, remaining afterwards on the board of directors. He was also part of the group that bought Sheraton Cleveland Hotel on PUBLIC SQUARE and leased it to Stouffer Corp., which renamed the hotel STOUFFER'S INN ON THE SQUARE.

O'Neill played FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, and BASEBALL in high school and basketball in college. O'Neill was commonly called Steve after his hero, Steve O'Neill, Cleveland Indians catcher of the 1920 championship season. O'Neill became an Indians owner in 1961 as part of the group led by VERNON STOUFFER. In 1973, he had to sell his Indians stock when he joined Geo. Steinbrenner's syndicate that bought the New York Yankees. In 1978, O'Neill sold his Yankees stock and put together a new ownership to buy the Indians; he was principal owner and chairman, holding approximately 63% of the stock. Although he lost $10-12 million on the team, O'Neill refused many offers by groups wishing to move it elsewhere. O'Neill married Anne Henry in 1926; she died in 1971. They had 3 children: Francis, Jr., Mary, and Elizabeth. O'Neill married Nancy Marsteller in 1974.