St. Louis, MO/December 12, 2017 (STL.News) – Charles Cella, a real estate businessman and prominent fixture in the horse racing world, died Wednesday (Dec. 6, 2017) at his home in Ladue from complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 81.
In the horseracing community, he was known for turning Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., into one of the most successful racetracks in the country.
The Cella family’s roots in racing date back to the turn of the 20th century. Over the years, the family divested other racing holdings, but Oaklawn remained in the family. Mr. Cella took over as president of Oaklawn Jockey Club after the death of his father, John G. Cella, in 1968.
In St. Louis, his family’s companies, Southern Real Estate & Financial Co. and Southwestern Enterprises Inc., were often connected with their real estate holdings, which included iconic downtown buildings and high-end Ladue retail.
The family real estate business, Southern Real Estate & Financial Co., was founded in 1903, and the fourth generations of Cellas now operate the closely held firm. Until two years ago, Southern Real Estate & Financial Co. owned the iconic Union Trust Building built in 1893 at 705 Olive Street and designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan. Until 2003, the company owned the Orpheum Theatre on Ninth Street (also known as the American Theatre), developed in 1917 by Mr. Cella’s grandfather. The company still owns a piece of Kiener Plaza downtown.
Outside of business, Mr. Cella was a nationally ranked squash player. In the 1960s he and squash partner Ted Simmons won five western doubles championships, said Simmons, a lifelong friend.
“He’s just one of those guys who had a lot of charisma and charm,” Simmons said. “He was just fun to be around.”
In addition to son John G. Cella, he is survived by daughter Harriett Marshall and son Louis A. Cella, all of St. Louis, and eight grandchildren.
By Alexandra R. Fasulo – published on STL.News by St. Louis Media, LLC (MS)
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