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TribBlog: Robert Mosbacher Dies

The former Commerce Secretary, GOP megafundraiser, and Bush 41 pal was 82.

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The Houston Chronicle is reporting that the former Commerce Secretary, GOP megafundraiser, and Bush 41 pal died of pancreatic cancer. He was 82.

The official obit:

The Honorable Robert Adam Mosbacher, Sr.
March 11, 1927-January 24, 2010

Robert Adam Mosbacher, Sr., former U.S. Secretary of Commerce in the Administration of President George H.W. Bush, an accomplished oilman and industry leader, and a champion amateur sailor, died Sunday, January 24th of cancer at the age of 82.  
Bob Mosbacher was born in Mt. Vernon, New York on March 11, 1927 to Emil and Gertrude Mosbacher and was the youngest of three children.  He grew up in White Plains, New York before moving to Texas in 1948.  He graduated from the Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut and Washington and Lee University.
At a very early age, he established himself as one of the premier competitive sailors on Long Island Sound winning the 1939 Long Island Sound Midget Sailing Championship, and the 1941 and 42 Long Island Sound Atlantic Class Championships.  He went on to amass a number of national and international titles including the 1957 and 1987 Scandinavian Gold Cup; the 1958 North American Clifford Mallory Cup; the 1969 Dragon Class World Championship; and the 1971 Soling World Championship.  
His sailing exploits and those of his brother, Bus, earned them a joint photo on the cover of the May 19, 1959 issue of Sports Illustrated with the title "Kings of the Class Boat Sailors." Bob had a unique gift for sailing, and a passion for the water.  He also had a passion for his family, his business, and his country.
At the age of 21, and on the advice of his father, Bob moved to Houston with his first wife, Jane Pennybacker, to build an independent oil and gas company.  The next decade would bring four wonderful children - Diane, Robert Jr., Kathryn, and Lisa.  However, tragedy struck when his beloved Jane succumbed to leukemia in 1970.  
In the meantime, Bob built a highly successful energy exploration and production company with interests primarily in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.  At different times over the past 50 years, the company has had profitable investments in the Rocky Mountains, Michigan, Canada, Spain, the Philippines, Venezuela, India, and more.
Since 1950, Mosbacher has participated in the discovery and/or development of hundreds of millions of barrels of oil, and almost a trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The business has had the good fortune of a very dedicated and loyal group of employees who have shared in the successes, as well as the disappointments over the years.  Bob is deeply grateful to his Mosbacher Energy family, both past and present, for their support.
His decades of oil and gas experience, coupled with his astute business judgment, led others to seek his counsel, resulting in his heading a host of industry organizations including the National Petroleum Council, The All-American Wildcatters' Association, the U.S. Oil and Gas Association and others. Bob was long considered a consummate dealmaker who was always willing to take risk, but within acceptable parameters.  Early on, he learned some very valuable lessons from his father who anticipated the Stock Market Crash of 1929, and he used those lessons to help guide the company through the ups and downs of the oil business over the last several decades.
Out of a deep desire to give something back to his country, he got involved in elective politics in the 1960's.  Although he served as Harris County Chairman of the 1968 Nixon Campaign, it was his loyal friendship with, and devoted support of George Bush that would lead him to the national political stage.  In fact, Mosbacher managed the national fundraising operations for five different GOP presidential campaigns - from Gerald Ford in 1976 to John McCain in 2008.  He was regarded by friend and foe alike as one of the most effective political fundraisers in modern history, partly because of the respect he commanded as a business leader, and because he never asked others to support a candidate or cause he was not supporting actively himself.  
Following the 1988 election, he was asked by then President-elect George H.W. Bush to join his Cabinet as the 28th U.S. Secretary of Commerce.  He was honored by the opportunity to serve his country and on February 3, 1989, he was sworn in by his close friend, Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, with President Bush looking on.
His principal accomplishments while at the helm of the Commerce Department from 1989 until early 1992 included laying the foundation for the North American Free Trade Agreement, helping shrink America's trade deficit with Japan and South Korea, and aggressively promoting U.S. exports through the strengthening of the U.S. Foreign and Commercial Service of the Commerce Department.  His role in helping negotiate NAFTA prompted Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo to present Mosbacher with the "Order of the Aztec Eagle," the highest decoration offered by the Mexican Government to non-citizens.
He was particularly proud later in life to have served as Chairman of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas; on the board of the Naval Academy Endowment; and as founder and president of the board of the Odyssey Academy Charter School in Galveston.  Just recently, he was honored to learn that the Robert A. Mosbacher, Sr. Institute for Trade, Economics and Public Policy is being created within the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.
Bob had a quick, warm smile, a wonderful sense of humor, and a fun-loving way about him that was contagious.  He was deeply devoted to his family and felt that he was one of the luckiest men in the world to have been mentored by his father "Pop" along with respected business friend Max Fisher, and to have lived such an incredible life with a family he adored and friends like fellow oilman Chesley Pruet and his dear friend and lawyer, Randy Smith.
His survivors include his wife of ten years, Michele "Mica" Mosbacher; sister Barbara Susan Mosbacher; daughter Diane and her spouse Nanette Gartrell; son Rob; daughter Kathi and her spouse Michael Wheeler; daughter Lisa and her spouse Downing Mears; grandchildren Peter (and wife Lucy), Jane, and Meredith Mosbacher, Parker, Whitney (and wife Katie), and Bayly Mears; stepson Donald Cameron Duncan III and his spouse Brittanie Hoster Duncan; stepsons Robert and Lloyd Gerry; a step-grandchild; as well as numerous nephews and cousins.  His older brother, Emil "Bus" Mosbacher, passed away in 1997.
A celebration of Bob Mosbacher's life will be held this Wednesday, January 27th at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston.
The family wishes to thank Dr. John Mendelsohn, Dr. Robert Wolff, and all the caregivers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, as well as Dr. Daniel von Hoff of TGen Research Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (, the newly created Mosbacher Institute at the Bush School at Texas A&M University, or the Odyssey Academy Charter School in Galveston (

The official statement from George H.W. Bush:

"Barbara and I feel a profound sense of personal grief over the death of our dear friend Bob Mosbacher, a close friend of some 50 years who helped us, and guided us, and lifted us up in so many different ways.  As good as he was at political fundraising — as he was certainly the very best at that — Bob meant so much more to us.  

"Together we shared a journey that led to the presidency, the mountaintop of American politics, and there we worked together to help America more fully embrace the world around us and compete in the newly emerging global markets that the waning Cold War made accessible.  No doubt, Bob will be remembered as one the most effective Commerce Secretaries in our Nation’s history.

"Bob Mosbacher was an honorable and a first-rate businessman, and perhaps the shrewdest dealmaker I ever knew.  But more than that, Bob was a true Point of Light, someone who generously helped so many different causes — but never seeking the limelight.  I think particularly of his spearheading the Odyssey Academy Charter School in Galveston as exemplary of Bob’s penchant for helping others in need.  And of course, we worked together with such joy to help support our beloved M.D. Anderson in the battle against cancer.  Few, if any, ever did more for that groundbreaking institution than Bob.

"Bob Mosbacher was a patriot, a lover of the sea, and a loving family man.  Barbara and I have already sent our condolences to his wife Mica, his children, and his grandkids — and assured them of Bob’s place of honor in our Nation’s history.  We loved him very much.  He will be sorely and deeply missed."

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