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Minnesota businessman Irwin Jacobs, wife found dead in their home

Undated courtesy photo, circa March 1988, of Alexandra, left, and Irwin Jacobs. St. Paul Pioneer Press file photo

ORONO, Minn. — Police are investigating the deaths of prominent Twin Cities businessman Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Alexandra, whose bodies were found Wednesday morning, April 10, in their Lake Minnetonka mansion.

Authorities did not officially identify the bodies, but in a Wednesday night statement, the Jacobs family confirmed the deaths of the couple, who were both 77.

“Our family is shocked and devastated by the death of our parents, Irwin and Alexandra Jacobs,” the statement said. “We are heartbroken by this loss, and we ask that our privacy be respected as we grieve during this very difficult time.”

Authorities said the bodies were discovered at about 8:30 a.m. in a bed at the Orono home in the 1700 block of Shoreline Drive. Orono police, who are being assisted by the Hennepin County sheriff’s office, said there was no risk to the public and that no suspects were being sought. Orono is on the north shore of Lake Minnetonka west of Minneapolis.

During a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Orono Police Chief Correy Farniok said that a handgun was recovered from the scene.

Farniok would not disclose the identities of the bodies, pending autopsies by the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office.

Dennis Mathisen, a longtime friend of the family, told the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune that Irwin Jacobs had killed his wife and then himself. Mathisen said that Alexandra Jacobs, who had been Jacobs’ wife for 57 years and mother to their five children, “had been in a wheelchair for the last year or so and had signs of dementia. Irwin was just distraught over her condition.”

Mathisen said he spoke with Irwin Jacobs about three days ago, and “he was upbeat. I talked with his son Mark yesterday, and he talked to both of them. He said Irwin seemed up.”

Jacobs is known for a lengthy business career that featured buying distressed companies.

One of his most notable local transactions was his purchase of the Grain Belt beer company and brewery in the mid-1970s. He later sold the beer brand to the now-defunct G. Heileman Brewing Co. and the brewery and real estate assets to the city of Minneapolis. He also bought the Lund Boat Co., which provided the beginnings of Genmar. He ran the popular fishing boat maker Genmar for decades until its 2009 bankruptcy.

At the time of his death, Jacobs had owned J.R. Watkins Co., which makes soaps and other household products, for more than 40 years. Mark Jacobs is president of the Winona company. Jacobs also owned Jacobs Trading Co., a retailer specializing in liquidation of merchandise.