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Business Observer Monday, Nov. 26, 2018 3 years ago

In Memoriam: Dr. Murray "Murf" Klauber, 1927-2018

Onetime orthodontist was at the forefront of turning Sarasota into a global destination for leisure travel.

A child of the Great Depression, Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber took all kinds of jobs to make money in the 1930s: Soda jerk, gravedigger, paperboy, to name just a few. When he made $200 he bought a car — the first in his family to have a set of wheels.

Klauber went on to have a long line of varied jobs. The list includes father of three children who grew up to be uber-successful adults; nationally known, ahead-of-his-time orthodontist;  clothing store operator; restaurateur; never-take-no for an answer salesman; ski instructor and lifelong expert skier, who could be seen, and heard, yodeling down the mountains of Aspen; hotelier; developer; and, even when he couldn’t get people to buy into his vision, master urban planner.

And, possibly most notably, Klauber, behind the rise of the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, was a forerunner in turning the Sarasota-Bradenton region into a global destination for leisure travel. (The Klauber family, after a series of disputes and lawsuits, lost control of the Colony in federal bankruptcy court in 2010 after nearly four decades of ownership.)

Considered a true renaissance man and a visionary thinker by many who knew him — and a sartorial standout who was rarely not seen in a colorful tropical shirt and loafers on his feet, never socks  — Klauber died Nov. 22. He was 91.

“He had a zest for life,” says wine entrepreneur Jack Daniels with Wilson Daniels in Napa Valley, Calif., a longtime family friend and Colony vendor. “He thought big about everything. There will be a big hole in that community with Murf gone.”

In addition to his jobs, Klauber excelled in both academics and sports growing up. He starred in rowing and squash at the University of Buffalo, and helped both teams win national championships. He later became a five-handicap golfer. Klauber also enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1945, breaking up his undergraduate years. He worked in the navy pharmacy toward the end of World War II and then returned to college. After Buffalo, he earned his orthodontics degree, from the University of Pennsylvania, in 1953. 

But it was with the Colony, where after turning 40, he made his mark in Sarasota. 

“Sometimes his vision was so big and so bold it took a while to bring it something deliverable,” Katie Moulton says. “But he always thought big. He always dreamed big.”

Changes at the Colony included making it one of the first resorts or hotels in the country to go all-suite. Another big change: Klauber hired his friend Nick Bollettieri to run a tennis academy there, back when tennis was volleying between a fringe and niche sport.  Bollettieri went on to launch the IMG Academy in Bradenton, and remained friends with Klauber. “Crazy people do things that people say can’t be done, and that’s why Murf and I got along,” says Bollettieri. “It’s too bad the world doesn’t make more of Murf Klaubers.”

In addition to tennis, Klauber used his customer-service instincts to create an atmosphere of warmth at the Colony — with a side of Florida kitsch. “He had a vision of a casual relaxed playground,” says Katie Klauber Moulton. “He didn’t want to be a Ritz-Carlton or a Hyatt.”


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