Bobby Haas, financial brain, aerial photographer and museum owner, dies at 74

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Bobby Haas, who made his fortune in the LBO arena, became an aerial photographer for National Geographic and built a world-class motorcycle museum in the Dallas Design District, died suddenly Tuesday after a brief respiratory illness.

He was 74 years old.

Haas made its millions three decades ago at age 41 with then-business partner Tom Hicks by assembling and selling a non-alcoholic beverage empire that included Dr Pepper, A&W, and 7UP. The pair’s trading gain exceeded $ 100 million.

“We were the right two people at the right time in the right market,” said Hicks, who was a Haas partner for five years from 1984. “We have had incredible success. I will always come back with fond memories. “

Bobby Haas is pictured in his Crescent office in 1993. (DMN files)

Based on their two accounts, Hicks and Haas had very different personalities – both personally and investment wise – and went their amicable separation in 1989. Hicks said they stayed behind. contact and that they both lived in the museum tower.

“I am very sad about his passing,” Hicks said, then added with a chuckle: “If you had told me that after leaving the investment firm that he would have done the things he ended up doing with photography and motorcycles, I would have bet a lot of money against you.

In 2002, Haas became the first photographer to publish an all-aerial book for a single photographer with National Geographic when he dared to take pictures while hanging out by a helicopter door.

He released a bestseller trilogy National Geographic small books of aerial photos taken in Africa, Latin America and the Arctic, and two children’s books.

This photo is Bobby Haas' most famous aerial photo, and it was taken over the Yucatan Peninsula in March 2006 for his National Geographic bestseller.
This photo is Bobby Haas’ most famous aerial photo, and it was taken over the Yucatan Peninsula in March 2006 for his National Geographic bestselling “Through the Eyes of the Condor”. It shows flamingos lined up in a bird-like formation in a lagoon along the Gulf of Mexico near Chuburn.

Lifetime student

He received his BA in psychology from Yale University in 1969 and his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1972. But he’s been a lifelong sponge when it comes to learning new things.

Haas bought his first motorcycle nine years ago and has become engrossed in the motorcycle world – bikes and culture.

He purchased or commissioned 232 vintage, classic, and modern custom motorcycles and built the Haas Moto Museum & Sculpture Gallery in the Design District in 2018 to show them to the public.

He was one of the main patrons of custom motorcycle builders around the world.

Earlier this year, Haas added the documentary maker to his resume with Leave the tracks, a feature film that was released in over 100 countries and 11 languages ​​on AppleTV, iTunes, Google Play and YouTube in April.

It’s partly a biopic and partly a tribute to the biker brotherhood, but more importantly a roadmap for navigating the edgy curves life has in store for you, he said in an interview last spring.

He spent over a million dollars to make a film that he knew would not be commercially successful.

“I never thought it would be a money generator,” Haas said. “If it gives other people life lessons and benchmarks, even how to ride a motorcycle, then it’s worth the effort. The purpose of art is to educate, inspire, and entertain, but it’s not to put shekels in your bank account.

Tom Hicks (right), Bobby Haas (front), Doug Wheat (standing) and Wheat's partner Peter Grauer are shown in negotiations to buy Dr Pepper / 7UP in 1987.

Tom Hicks (right), Bobby Haas (front), Doug Wheat (standing) and Wheat’s partner Peter Grauer are shown in negotiations to buy Dr Pepper / 7UP in 1987. (Sunwest Communications)

collapsed after training

His death came as a shock to those who knew him best, as Bobby, as he was universally known, lived his life at full speed and never looked his age.

Stacey Mayfield, Haas’ life and business partner, described her “soul mate” as Benjamin Button, the character in a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald who is old when he is born but a baby when he dies.

Haas had an aggressive case of COVID-19 in June 2020 that kept him confined to his Museum Tower condo for 42 days. But he thought he had fully recovered.

In mid-August, he started to have breathing problems and was due for tests on Friday. He collapsed Tuesday after his morning workout and died upon arriving at William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital, Mayfield said.

“He was larger than life, shone so bright, and touched everyone he met,” said Mayfield, director of the Haas Moto Museum & Sculpture Gallery. “I just lost the love of my life. I will carry his energy, his passion and his love with me.

“I’m so sorry to hear this bad news,” said Rick Fairless, owner of Strokers Dallas, the area’s premier biker haunt. “Bobby has been a major player in the motorcycle industry, and we’re proud that he’s a guy from Dallas, Texas. “

Nick Davis, director of Nick Davis Productions in New York City, spent a year working with Haas while producing Leave the tracks. He said his life was forever changed by the experience.

“English teachers tell you never to use the single word, but Bobby Haas was unique. No one who’s ever met him would ever say they’ve met someone like him, ”Davis said. “He was stimulating, generous, open-minded, tough, disciplined and so gentle.”

Craig Rodsmith, a custom bike builder in Illinois who featured in the film, said he felt like he had lost his brother.

Last year, Haas and Rodsmith co-designed “Mister Fahrenheit,” a racing cycle featuring an ultra-sleek passenger sidecar that they hoped would set a world record at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats with Haas leading him.

Those plans were sidelined by the pandemic, but the couple planned to take her to El Mirage Lake, a dry lake in California, to see if they could break the record there.

“Bobby uplifted everyone on the bike with what he did. More than that, he uplifted everyone who came into his life, ”said Rodsmith, who owns five custom bikes on display at the Haas Museum.

In addition to Mayfield, Haas is survived by three adult daughters, Samatha Haas, Courtney Haas Bauch and Vanessa Haas Hood, from her 48-year marriage to Candice Haas, and four grandchildren.

A private celebration of life is planned for later this month at the Motorcycle Museum.

Note: The story was edited Thursday night to reflect that Bobby and Candice had been married for 48 years, not 47.


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