Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

From Rags to Riches to Charity ; Ewings Host Big Fundraiser

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

From Rags to Riches to Charity ; Ewings Host Big Fundraiser

Article excerpt

SANTA CLAUS, IND. -Ed Ewing knows what it's like to be rich. The Jasper, Ind., native and semiretired business tycoon now lives in Nashville, Tenn. But he also owns Big Tree Farm in Santa Claus, a personal retreat chock-full of goodies. A replica 1950s diner, memorabilia, more than 100 classic cars, pool, tennis court, Ewing's personal residence and guest quarters are all situated on more than 600 gated acres on Indiana 162.

On May 18, he and his wife, Linda, will host a high-dollar charity fundraiser at that retreat. Featured performer at the event will be Kris Kristofferson.

But Ewing also knows what it's like to do without.

He said he grew up in a family where his father was a janitor, his mother cleaned houses and money was short.

"I started out with zero," said Ewing, 68, as he lounged in a colorful Adirondack chair during a sunny Tuesday at Big Tree.

"I grew up very poor in Jasper, and left when I was 17 with $20."

"Zero," he said, was a home without central heating or hot water, where sometimes the power company shut off the electricity because the family had fallen behind on its bills.

"I played sports because then you could take a shower at school," Ewing recalled.

Motivated in part by those early experiences, Ewing went on to build a very different life for himself.

While still a student at Jasper High School, Ewing landed a drafting job at Jasper-based Kimball International, drawing parts for the pianos the company then produced.

The pay was good, Ewing said, but after graduation he decided to find his fortune elsewhere.

A 7th-generation Southern Indiana resident, Ewing said, "I realized that if I stayed here I'd always be viewed by my ancestors."

So he joined the Air Force right after high school.

He said that by the time he got out of the service four years later, he'd saved up $14,000 - a considerable sum for a 21-year- old in the 1960s.

After the military he got a job working for International Harvester's engineering department in Fort Wayne and bought a house. He brought in roommates and charged them rent enough to cover his mortgage payment, he said, with some extra that he used to purchase other properties.

Those real estate ventures, which Ewing said he's always considered a hobby, became Ewing Properties, which owns residential and commercial properties in Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee and Texas.

But where Ewing really made his mark was as a corporate turnaround expert -someone who could come in and help revive troubled companies. He partnered with The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm.

At one time, he said, he was an executive with companies in five different industries: aerospace, automotive, private equity, shipping and real estate.

"You're never going to be successful doing just one thing unless you're lucky," Ewing said. …

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