By Sharon Moloney, Post staff reporter
Carl A. Kroch, former Chicago bookstore owner and a limited partner in the Cincinnati Reds, died Saturday of natural causes at his Lake Shore Drive apartment. He was 84.
Kroch had been among the most outspoken opponents of Reds' Managing Partner Marge Schott throughout her tenure.
In 1993, when Major League Baseball suspended Mrs. Schott instead of stripping her of her general partnership, he made no secret of his displeasure.
'I always thought Major League Baseball had no guts, and now I'm convinced,' Kroch said. 'They didn't even slap her on the wrist.'
Kroch had entertained thoughts of selling his share of the club if Mrs. Schott weren't stripped of her general partnership, but he later determined that he didn't want to give her the satisfaction.
Kroch frequently complained that the limited partners were left out of the loop in decisions concerning the club.
'I haven't seen or heard from her (concerning the club) for three years,' Kroch said in reference to Mrs. Schott in 1994.
As early as 1988, he and another limited partner complained that Mrs. Schott failed to keep them informed about finances and major developments in the management of the Reds.
Kroch sued Mrs. Schott and won access to financial records in an out-of-court settlement.
Kroch leaves no direct survivors, and it is not known what impact Kroch's death might have on the Reds' limited partnership or Kroch's partnership share.
The limited partners are meeting today to discuss what has been described as an offer by a Cleveland businessman to buy the Reds.
James Evans, general counsel for limited partner Carl Lindner, said today that he did not believe Kroch's death would have an effect on the sale.
'He was a really nice man,' Evans said of Kroch and his death. 'That's a shame.'
Kroch, known as one of the nation's premier booksellers, took a small bookstore and built it into an empire, Kroch's & Brentano's.
Kroch's father, Adolph, an Austrian immigrant, had set up a German-language bookstore in the early 1900s, and later bought out Brentano's bookstore. The two merged as Kroch's & Brentano's.
After graduation from Cornell University, Carl Kroch opened a Super Book Mart in 1952 featuring 15,000 titles under one roof - a huge inventory that led to the store's name as the World's Largest Bookstore.
Known as the Baron of Books, Kroch started other trends in bookselling, including opening outlets in suburban malls and opening a market for soft-cover books.
His influence spread far beyond Chicago, and it was said that he could make or break a book.
Kroch, however, believed in providing special services to his customers and refused to offer the deep discounts on books that were being offered by the larger chain stores, such as B. Dalton and Waldenbooks.
This refusal and other business decisions ultimately led to the death of Kroch's & Brentano's in 1995.
By this time Kroch had sold his share of the business. Other branches of Brentano's were not affected.
In Kroch's last years, he continued to read voraciously.
At the time of his death, according to a companion, Kroch was reading a book about ballerinas.
Funeral services for Kroch will be private, but visitation will be Tuesday in Chicago.
Post Reporter Cliff Peale contributed to this story.
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