By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Bill Cooper, the longtime CEO of TCF bank, and a former head of the Mn Republican Party has died at the age of 73.

Cooper died last night of cancer and he is being mourned as a giant in the twin cities business, political and philanthropic communities. He came from a modest background in Detroit putting himself through college as a police officer.

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His innovations in banking included free checking and putting banks inside Cub food stores — moves that were considered radical for their time. He was known for saying exactly what he thought.

“As far as I’m concerned business is a game and money is how you keep score,” he told Jason DeRusha in 2014.

As Chairman of the Minnesota Republican party he brought party factions together as noted by WCCO’s Pat Kessler in 1998, who wrote then, “Much of the credit for GOP unity goes to party Chairman Bill Cooper,”

His pull-no-punches style won him fans, but it also made headlines. He infamously said Norm Coleman’s political career was dead in 2002. Coleman went on to be elected to the U.S. Senate, and the two went on to become close friends, even swapping cancer treatment stories.

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“He was smart and tough,” Coleman said. “You didn’t want Bill Cooper as an enemy but you sure as heck wanted him as a friend.”

Less well known was Coopers enormous commitment to helping create charter schools in the Twin Cities including Hennepin Elementary in MInneapolis.

And his donations helped create Providence Acadmey in Plymouth which opened in 2001 and now has ,820 students. Dr. Todd Flanders has been the headmaster since the school opened.

“Mr. Cooper was the biggest friend of education that I have ever had the privilege to know,” Flanders said. “I had the opportunity to say to him one time, ‘Bill, your heart is bigger than your wallet.'”

Coleman, whose own cancer continues to be in remission, put it simply: “Bill Cooper had a golden touch.”

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When he took over TCF in 1985, it was a struggling savings and loan enterprise. He is credited with building it into Minnesota’s third largest banking company.

Esme Murphy