Thomas Philipsborn, a mortgage banker, has died at 97

Thomas D. Philipsborn was a mainstay in Chicago’s mortgage banking community, for many years running The Philipsborn Co., which was founded by his father.

“He loved everything about the industry,” said his daughter, Lisa Blumberg. “He loved looking at property, he loved negotiating and he loved making deals.”

Philipsborn, 97, died of complications from a massive stroke on May 3 that he suffered while vacationing in Florida, his daughter said. He was a resident of the Streeterville neighborhood.

Born in Chicago, Philipsborn grew up in Glencoe and graduated from New Trier High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Lake Forest College in 1950, and he then served in the Merchant Marine during the Korean War.

After his time in the military, Philipsborn joined H.F. Philipsborn & Co., which his father, Herbert, had formed in 1929. He became president in 1966, succeeding his father, who became chairman and stepped back from the business.

Particularly as the Chicago area developed after World War II, the company would serve as a construction lender for various developers.

“He knew if the numbers made sense or not,” said Philipsborn’s nephew, Andrew, who today is president of The Philipsborn Co. “There was so much growth here after the war, with a lot of development going on, and his generation really was part of it.”

Andrew Philipsborn said that into the 1960s and ‘70s, the city still had a number of “old-line, privately held family mortgage banking companies.”

Herbert Philipsborn died in 1969 and the following year his son sold the firm to Illinois Central Industries. In 1981, Thomas  Philipsborn was part of the group that bought the firm back from what at that point was known as IC Industries, giving it its current name, The Philipsborn Co.

Philipsborn was president and chairman of the firm for several more decades.

Gary Chaplin, the former head of U.S. mortgages for Canadian insurance firm Manulife, called Philipsborn “a master at structuring real estate financing to make it successfully work for both the owner and the lender.”

Chaplin also recalled how impressed he was that Philipsborn was willing to introduce Chaplin to several of his large clients.

“This was unique for us, as with two exceptions, this had not happened with other mortgage banking companies representing (us) throughout the U.S.,” Chaplin said. “But he had lived real estate all his life as his father had founded the company, and Tom, as a result, knew a lot about Chicago real estate, past and present.”

Around 2000, Philipsborn stepped back from daily work at his firm, although he remained its chairman. Instead, he began putting together equity partners in real estate deals instead of providing mortgage financing on properties for client developers and investors.

However, Philipsborn continued coming to the office until he was 93 years old, his nephew said. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was what ultimately kept him at home, his daughter said.

“He loved his work,” Andrew Philipsborn said. “All these deals were his life.”

Philipsborn served as president and director of the Chicago Mortgage Bankers Association, a director and vice president of the North Dearborn Association, a life trustee at Francis W. Parker School and as a director at Chicago Sinai Congregation.

One of Philipsborn’s major roles at Chicago Sinai was to help the synagogue find property and negotiate the deal to move to where the congregation is located now. The synagogue moved from Hyde Park to its current location at 15 W. Delaware Place on the Near North Side in 1996, his daughter said.

In addition to his daughter and nephew, Philipsborn is survived by his wife of 63 years, Betty; three other daughters, Ellyn McCrea, Anne and Mari; and five grandchildren.

A celebration of life service will be held this summer.

Bob Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.

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