Denver attorney, philanthropist Lanny Martin dies at 77

J. Landis “Lanny” Martin, an attorney, businessman and well-known benefactor of the arts in Denver, has died. He was 77 when he died Friday after an illness.

Martin and his wife, Sharon, made the largest standalone financial standalone gift in the Denver Art Museum’s history with their pledge in 2016 of $25 million to revitalize the museum’s north building, a seven-story tower that was designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti in 1971. The building was renamed the J. Landis and Sharon Martin Building.

Lanny Martin was a museum trustee since 1994 and was chairman of the museum board from 2013 to 2022. When Sarah Anschutz succeeded Martin in March after serving as interim board chair, the museum said in a statement that Martin “oversaw much of the museum’s transformation into the institution it is today.”

Martin was chairman of the Clyfford Still Museum Foundation and Martin was also deeply involved with the Central City Opera. He was a member of the opera’s board of directors, serving as chairman for several years. Sharon Martin was active with the Central City Opera House Association Guild, serving as president in 1990.

When gambling was legalized in Central City and two other mountain towns in 1991, Martin worked with fellow board member Nancy Parker to negotiate a lease of the Teller House, a hotel owned by the opera. A Swiss company leased the hotel and paid for renovations, helping the opera establish an endowment.

Martin maintained strong ties to Northwestern University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1968 and a law degree in 1973. He served on the university’s board of trustees and was chairman from 2017 until August 2022.

“I’m truly saddened to hear of Lanny’s passing. He has given so much to Northwestern, through his leadership, his guidance and his unwavering support for his alma mater,” Northwestern President Michael Schill said in a statement on the school’s website.

Martin and his wife were generous benefactors, giving a total of nearly $45 million, the school said. The couple created the J. Landis Martin Professorship of Law and Business; helped establish Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium, the university’s soccer and lacrosse field; and made several generous gifts to the Law School Fund and Bienen School of Music Fund.

Sharon Martin told The Denver Post on Sunday that her husband’s community involvement was a family tradition.

“He would probably tell you it was the way he was raised in Grand Island, Nebraska, with two parents who gave back to the community, more so in volunteerism. His father was mayor of Grand Island,” Sharon said.

Martin was born Nov. 5, 1945, in Grand Island. He had six brothers and sisters. Martin met his future wife in Chicago on a blind date. “Mutual friends of ours fixed us up,” Sharon said.

The couple married in 1978. They have three daughters, who all live in the Denver area: Mary Lester, Sarah Stettner and Emily Jones. They also have nine grandchildren.

Martin was with the law firm Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Denver, where the Martins moved in 1981. Stettner said her father practiced law until 1987. He then served as CEO for three publicly traded companies: Titanium Metals Corp.; NL Industries; and Baroid Corp.

In 2006, Martin founded Platte River Equity, a Denver-based private equity firm focused on companies with enterprise values of up to $250 million.

Stettner said services for her father are pending.

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