Michael Horne
House Confidential

The Three Mansions of Michael White

The Rite-Hite CEO is a trustee of the River Hills village board. But he also owns homes in Milwaukee and Arizona.

By - Sep 29th, 2013 05:37 pm

On October 23rd, 2012 Rite-Hite Holding Corporation owner and Chairman Michael H. White famously sent his 1,400 employees an e-mail warning them of dire consequences should Barack Obama be re-elected president.

The corporate tax rate paid by the firm would “increase dramatically if President Obama is re-elected, forcing taxpayers to fund President Obama’s future deficits and social programs (including Obamacare), which require bigger government” he cautioned.

He told the employees that there would be a “good chance of losing Rite-Hite insurance and being put into Obamacare.”

Instead of reinvesting profits in the company for future growth and profitability, the “money would be set into the abyss that is Washington, DC.”

The memo received considerable national attention, with critics claiming White was illegally using intimidation to influence an election result, while his supporters applauded the straight-talking words of a successful businessman. In the end there was no finding of wrongdoing, and the matter died down.

But White is not just a businessman, he is also an elected official, serving as a trustee of the Village of River Hills, which is where House Confidential first started looking for him a year ago.

“Could you please provide me with the current home address of Trustee Michael White?,” I wrote Chris Lear, village clerk on October 26th, 2012.

“No,” was the one-word reply I got.

I fired back a response noting the addresses of public officials are public record and received this reply:

Mr. Horne,

I am fully aware his address is a matter of public record. At the time of your request, using information from our Police Department, I had good reason to be concerned about the safety of Trustee White and or his family.

Anyway, I was directed to an address on W. Bradley Road, which vies with W. Dean Road as the finest of the village’s east-west streets. (N. River Road and N. Range Line Road duke it out for north-south honors.)

There, unseen from the street, a large home valued at $1,800,000 sits on its five or so acre plot through which wends the languishing course of Indian Creek, a waterway with the general stature of a drainage ditch. A magnificent paved drive runs straight north; it is bordered with bricks.

Pumpkins in front of Michael White's River Hills home. Photo by Michael Horne.

Pumpkins in front of Michael White’s River Hills home. Photo by Michael Horne.

Fully a month before Halloween, there are already pumpkins decorating the driveway, their orange flesh contrasting with the deep blue flowers of the Cranesbill Geraniums that gaily skip over granite boulders. An arborist’s delight of River Birch dapples the autumn sunlight, and the Viburnum Trilobum are poised to make their splashy entry into the season, while the hemerocallis prepare themselves for a winter’s sleep.

And then there is the house — plaster over fieldstone, with a shuttered 6-panel window flanking an ivy covered brick fireplace, an arched entryway and a weathered copper roof. Pardon me — this is not the house, but the mailbox. Such whimsical efforts as this one are the only known folk art of the village, and are greatly prized by the natives.

Curiously, however, the home is not listed in the name of Michael H. White, but instead is titled to Cathy W. White, his wife. I have never previously encountered in any community an instance in which an elected official and property owner did not have his name on the title to his place of residence. It’s usually styled in the name of husband and wife in the case of married couples.

Not to worry about Michael White lacking a property title in his own name, though, since Michael H. White is listed as the owner of a magnificent home in the city of Milwaukee — this time without his wife’s name on the title. Why this second house, I wondered?

White paid $910,000 on July 1st, 2009 for this “Tudor Provincial” on N. Terrace Ave., and he has been busy improving it ever since. There are currently a dozen open permits on the place, including one for a $170,000 addition to the home designed by Greg Uhen to include a lower level exercise room, a first floor breakfast nook, a second floor balcony addition and a rooftop fireplace.

The whole house was rewired in 2009 at a cost of $30,000; while another 65 outlets will be added under a new $6,000 contract. The second floor bath will soon be “reconfigured” and the plaster in the basement rec room walls and ceiling will be redone.

The house was built in 1922 for William Wehr, so you could call it the “Wehr House,” if you would like. It is a “beautiful Mediterranean designed by Richard Philipp with a large marble foyer, open wrought iron stair, marble natural fireplace, sunroom off master. Basement Rec Room has natural fireplace.”

Philipp gave the East Side a number of its prominent homes. He was also the architect of Riverbend, the magnificent mansion he built for Walter Kohler Sr. in Kohler, Wisconsin.

Robert S. Schley, Jr., a professional appraiser, advised a previous owner, Dr. Keith Epperson, that the home is “substantially built, finely detailed and reflects a high quality of workmanship and materials. … The ornamental plaster work, light fixtures, marble flooring, millwork and hardware are all particularly noteworthy.”

The dining room is “banquet sized.”

The city assessor gives the building an A+ rating. The basement has 3,095 square feet, including that rec room with the fireplace, the exercise room and kitchenette. The first floor also has 3,095 square feet, while there is 2,999 square feet on the second floor, for a total living area of 6,094 square feet — before the current addition.

There are 4 full baths (two in the master suite alone) 2 half baths, 5 bedrooms and hot water heating.

It is assessed at $141,200 for the land and $680,000 for the improvements for a total of $821,700.

Since this story was posted, one reader has informed us the home is actually occupied by White’s daughter and her husband. Whoever lives there, the tax bill is mailed to Michael White ℅ Rite-Hite Holding Corporation.

Then there is White’s third mansion, which blows the other two away. In 2010, Michael H. White, Cathy W. White and Mark G. Petri, as trustees of the Michael H. White and Cathy W. White trusts, paid $5.9 million — in cash! —  for a five-bedroom, 6 1/2 bath, 8,253-square-foot custom Santa Barbara-style home in Ironwood Hills in Paradise Valley, Arizona.  The home, built in 2008, includes floors made with salvaged antique tiles from France.

An Arizona Republic story includes further details on the home:

The driveway and walkways are done with antique salvage bricks from an old building being taken down in Chicago. There is a main house and guesthouse with four-car garage. The home includes a children/guest wing, theater, and a private sitting room within the master bedroom, along with a complete chef’s kitchen. The detached guesthouse boasts its own fireplace. There are six other fireplaces scattered throughout the main house. The home was sold by Jason K. Singer, as managing member of JNJK LLC, an Arizona limited-liability company. Singer practices emergency medicine in Evanston, Ill.

More About Michael White

In addition to being the owner and chairman of the seven corporations under the Rite-Hite Holding Company umbrella, Michael White, whose father Arthur K. White founded the industrial machinery firm, has an active community life beyond meddling in his employees electoral affairs.

He is a member of the board of Concordia University Wisconsin Foundation, and Milwaukee World Festival (Summerfest).

As a trustee of the Village of River Hills, he must, like any municipal elected official in the state, maintain a legal residence in that community. Nothing in the law specifies how often you must be in that home.

The Village of River Hills was incorporated in 1930 to manage and maintain that portion of the community not under the direct supervision of the groundskeeper of the Milwaukee Country Club. Its per capita income is nearly $100,000, and White clearly has that beat. His village tax bill was $44,000 last year.

In addition to these activities, White also serves on the board of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a public interest law firm headed by Marquette professor Rick Esenberg, who once served as corporate counsel for Rite-Hite.

The Institute works hard lobbying against such things as the Milwaukee streetcar, and has a particular interest in voter fraud cases. You know — those alleged cases where people vote in communities in which they do not reside.

The Rundown

  • Style: Tudor / Mediterranean hybrid mansion.
  • Location: City of Milwaukee
  • Neighborhood: Northpoint
  • Walk Score: 85 out of 100. “Very Walkable.” Northpoint is the most walkable neighborhood in the city of Milwaukee with over 3,000 residents and an average score of 94.
  • Street Smart Walk Score: 87 out of 100 “Very Walkable”
  • Public Transit Score: 49 out of 100. “Some Transit” There are 5 bus lines nearby.
  • Size: 6,094 square feet with another addition coming. It also has a 636 square foot attached garage.
  • Year Built: 1922, with a 2013 addition underway.
  • Assessed Value: Land — $141,200; Improvements — $781,800 Total — $923,000

How Milwaukee Is It? It is 2 miles to Milwaukee City Hall, and an 8 mile commute to the Village Hall in River Hills for White to attend those trustee meetings.

Photo Gallery – Milwaukee Home

Photo Gallery – River Hills Home

Categories: House Confidential

2 thoughts on “House Confidential: The Three Mansions of Michael White”

  1. Erik Hoover says:

    Don’t have a quibble with getting data out to the public, but under your head you say “The Rite-Hite CEO …” where Rite-Hite owner and chairman is more accurate.

  2. “CEO” is a recognizable identifier of Mr. White for headline purposes. He has been referred to as such in other publications and documents.

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