The Butlers of Oak Brook, Six

Paper, Polo, Rock and Ruin

Megan Mosaics Picture



By Megan McKinney


Paul Butler and his daughter, Jorie.

The Other Butler Heirs Mid-Century


While Michael was making news in America, his half-brother, Norman, was preoccupied with marrying the daughters of titled foreigners. The first, in 1948, was Pamela Winn, daughter of Sir Gawaine Baillie of Leeds Castle in Kent, and his wife, Olive, an heiress of the American Whitney clan. A decade later he married Penelope Dewar, whose father, Lord Forteviot, owned Dewar’s Whiskies in Scotland. Norman’s third wife, whom he married in 1981, was Baroness Gabriella Groger von Sontag, daughter of a German banker. In between he played polo, raised thoroughbreds and worked off and on as a director of his father’s companies.

The most retiring of the siblings was Frank O. Butler II, two years younger than Michael, who spent much of his adult life living quietly, and very well, in Palm Beach. He was the only one of the four not obsessed with horses and polo, chiefly because of an appalling tendency toward asthma, which made it impossible for him to be near the animals. It was an allergy that may have been his saving.

Of Paul’s children Jorie was the most like him. She was also his favorite. Not only had she the imagination, energy and focus to be a successful entrepreneur but she was also the only Butler of her generation with her father’s business sense. He made her comptroller of Butler Aviation and executive vice president for the Butler Companies. Furthermore, he admired her pluck; from her girlhood as a horsewoman, she was a successful contender, riding away from one equestrian competition after another bearing the silver trophy or blue ribbon, and the applause. In the estimate of one Oak Brook Farm old-timer, “She’s tough. If I were negotiating a deal I’d want her on my side.”  She and Paul spent a great deal of time together while sharing serious hobbies, such as photography, horse breeding, playing polo and piloting their airplanes. Furthermore, Jorie and her various husbands usually lived in one of Paul’s white clapboard farmhouses on his property and, as a consummate hostess, she regularly threw together elegantly casual parties for a hundred or more of the guests attending his sporting events. Her special position with Oak Brook’s founder is evidenced in the name of its prominent thoroughfare, Jorie Boulevard.

Jorie has not had as many husbands as her mother—thus far there have been only four–but in number four she seemed to have found her opposite number, for a while. Geoffrey Kent was born on safari in Zambia and raised in Kenya and England. His parents, Valerie and Colonel John Kent, were founders of Abercrombie & Kent, a top-of-the-line African safari company. At 17, the adventurous, polo playing Geoffrey became the first person to travel from Kenya to Cape Town by motorbike. Educated at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, he was an officer in the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, with whom he served throughout the Middle East.

In 1972 Jorie bought half interest in Abercrombie & Kent and joined Geoffrey in expanding the company from a luxury adventure enterprise specializing in African safaris to a firm with a variety of high end travel services in more than 100 countries on all seven continents. Although Geoffrey is more than a decade her junior, they eventually married and together engaged in such sports as polo, tennis, windsurfing, kayaking and skiing, as well as operating their immensely successful company. The marriage survived but a few years; however the business relationship has prevailed. Geoffrey is chairman and CEO while Jorie’s focus is the company’s conservation efforts.


Next week: Paul’s Ultimate Issue


Author Photo:

Robert F. Carl