Robert Haas, financier and aerial photographer, dies at 74


Robert Haas, a financier who in his 50s used his fortune to go in a very different direction, becoming a published aerial photographer, and then in his 60s began collecting vintage and custom motorcycles and creating a Texas museum for them. expose, died Sept. 28 in a Dallas hospital. He was 74 years old.

The cause was respiratory illness, said Stacey Mayfield, her partner and director of the Haas Moto Museum and Sculpture Gallery in Dallas.

Mr Haas, known as Bobby, made his fortune in the 1980s. He and a partner, Thomas Hicks, led a group of investors in the 7-Up and Dr Pepper debt buyouts, then sold 49% of soft drink companies combined for $ 600 million to Prudential-Bache Securities in 1988.

“I was 41 and I’m where I thought I was when I was 71, multiplied by 10,” he said in “Leaving Tracks” (2021), a self-produced documentary film. “What do I do now?”

He and Mr. Hicks, who formed Hicks & Haas in 1984 in Dallas, ended their partnership after five years. And while Mr. Haas remained in the private equity industry for another two decades, he looked for other diversions his great wealth could allow.

With $ 2,000 in newly purchased photographic equipment but not knowing how to use it, he traveled to a game reserve in Kenya in 1994 for a photo safari. He quickly learned from professionals, returned several times to Africa and published a book of photographs, “A Vision of Africa” (1998).

On another safari the year his book was published, he chartered a helicopter from which he discovered an exciting new perspective.

“Once that helicopter took off, I looked at the earth from above and felt like a whole different photographer,” he told Yale Alumni Magazine in 2011. “My eyes, my hand and my brain started to work differently. “

Attached by a harness to his seat so that it does not fall from helicopters with the doors removed, Mr. Haas took photographs of wildlife and landscapes which he brought to National Geographic Books, which has published his work in “Through the Eyes of the Gods: An Aerial View of Africa” ​​(2005) and “Through the Eyes of the Condor: An Aerial View of Latin America” ​​(2007).

This latest book contains an unlikely image he found while flying over the Yucatán Peninsula: hundreds of flamingos that had somehow formed the shape of a giant flamingo.

“It was the holy grail”, Mr. Haas told the Toronto Star in 2010. “The holy grail is the ability to capture an image that no one else has captured before and it is highly unlikely to be captured again.”

In “Through the Eyes of the Vikings: An Aerial Vision of Arctic Lands” (2010), also published by National Geographic, Mr. Haas photographed glaciers, bays, rivers and other natural landscapes in Norway, Sweden , Greenland, Iceland and Alaska.

Lisa Lytton, the project manager for the three books, said over the phone: “The most successful photographs were when he captured something that looked like an abstract painting, with beautiful colors and beautiful light. He had a big eye for it.

Robert Bradley Haas was born June 12, 1947 in Cleveland. Her father, Melville, was a car dealer. Her mother, Phyllis (Bain) Haas, was a women’s fashion consultant.

Mr. Haas received a BA in 1969 from Yale University, where he studied psychology, and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1972. After working for a law firm and a capital firm -risk in Cleveland, he moved to Dallas to create Hicks & Haas. .

Besides 7-Up and Dr Pepper, Hicks & Haas built an investment portfolio that included other soft drink brands (including A&W Root Beer) as well as companies involving pay-per-view in hotel rooms, metal welding and flooring equipment.

“The lesson we’ve both learned is that the best thing you can do is have great partners and relationships with affection, trust and respect,” Mr. Haas told The New York Times in 1988. “We have a special ability to negate each other’s bad ideas.

After separating from Mr. Hicks in 1989, Mr. Haas established the private equity firm Haas & Partners, which would later become Haas, Wheat & Partners. She specialized in smaller businesses than Hicks & Haas had done; one of his best-known investments was the acquisition of 40% of Playtex Products for $ 180 million. Mr. Haas was President of Playtex from 1995 to 2004.

His immersion in aerial photography gave way to an equally passionate immersion in motorcycles ten years ago. After buying one, he bought more and started to ride them (but only the ones with sidecars, which gave him more balance). He was as interested in the art and construction of classic motorcycles as he was in the new ones he commissioned.

“We’re both basically nerds, and he became fascinated with the design and mechanical aspects of motorcycles,” Craig Rodsmith, who built three motorcycles for Mr. Haas, including one titled “The Killer,Said by phone. “For Bobby, it wasn’t just the bikes – he loved the history, the people behind them.”

Mr. Haas opened his Haas Moto Museum in 2018; it now has 230 motorcycles.

His interest in motorcycles led him to ride for about a year with the Viet Nam Vets Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club, a group made up entirely of veterans and active military personnel; he described his time with them in “Shakespeare and the Brothers: Embedded with a Band of Bikers” (2015).

In addition to Ms Mayfield, who said she plans to keep the museum in business for about three more years, he is survived by his daughters, Samantha Haas, Courtney Haas Bauch and Vanessa Haas Hood; four grandchildren; her sister, Jodi Davis; and his brother Richard. Her marriage to Candice (Goldfarb) Haas in 1969 ended in divorce in 2017.

Last year, Mr. Haas decided to bequeath the motorcycles he ordered to their manufacturers. As he told them in a scene captured in “Leaving Tracks”, he said he wanted to make them “the children of your souls”.


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