Philanthropist Alan Baer Dies - Nov 6, 2002 - Omaha World-Herald
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November 6 , 2002- Philanthropist Alan Baer Dies
BY JACLYN O'MALLEY - WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
For a good deed, Alan Baer had a flowerpot.
For years, the longtime businessman and philanthropist scanned the newspaper for articles about people he knew. Then he would send the person a flowerpot, with the story lining the outside, said Jeffrey Silver, a friend and family lawyer.
Baer, 79, died of cancer Tuesday afternoon. Services are set for noon Saturday at the Georgetowne Club, 2440 S. 141st Circle. John A. Gentleman Mortuaries is handling arrangements.
"He was famous for sending his flowerpots," Silver said. "It was a way for him to say he recognized you for being special."
Silver said Baer enjoyed his last days, "living his life to the fullest."
Survivors include Baer's wife, Marcia; two sons, Ted and John; and three grandchildren.
"He was one of the warmest, and generous human beings I've ever met," Silver said. "He had a great sense of humor and treated everyone with respect."
The Alan and Marcia Baer Foundation gives generous donations to Nebraska arts and educational agencies, as well as to various charities.
Baer was a great-grandson of Jonas L. Brandeis, who founded Boston Store, a department store that led to the J.L. Brandeis & Sons Department Store.
Baer was president of Brandeis from 1974 until 1987, when he sold the business to Younkers Inc. for $33.9 million. Before the chain was sold, there were 11 Brandeis stores in Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, Hastings, Council Bluffs and Des Moines.
Afterward, Baer continued to own Brandeis Food Service, which catered food and handled concessions at Ak-Sar-Ben and elsewhere. Baer also started Alan Baer & Associates as an umbrella company for his many business interests, among them keno operations, broadcasting, furniture and appliance rentals, and banking.
In 1987, Baer made a five-year, $7 million loan to the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben to help finance improvements to the horse-racing facility. Racing declined, and the Knights had trouble repaying Baer. In 1992, the organization sold Ak-Sar-Ben's buildings, horse track and land to Douglas County and repaid Baer.
In 1996, Alan and Ted Baer offered another loan, of $1 million or more, to keep horse racing alive at Ak-Sar-Ben for one more year. The Baers hoped the loan would give Douglas County more time to find a long-term answer for Ak-Sar-Ben, where the Baers had their keno, concessions and hockey interests.
Loan negotiations failed, however, and the County Board voted to cancel live racing that year.
Alan Baer also was a proponent of establishing casino gambling at Ak-Sar-Ben.
In 1990, a grand jury investigating various allegations surrounding the 1988 collapse of the Franklin Community Federal Credit Union indicted Baer on two pandering charges. He later pleaded no contest to a single reduced charge of aiding and abetting prostitution and paid a small fine.
Baer was known for his business sense in turning around enterprises that were going badly.
An example was his 1988 purchase of the Omaha Lancers to ensure that the hockey team stayed in Omaha. Ted Baer became Lancers president.
The team once drew 600 to 700 spectators to its games. The Baers moved the team to Ak-Sar-Ben, hired a new coach and eventually started selling out every game at the 6,124-seat Ak-Sar-Ben Coliseum.
Ted Baer continues to lead the team, which recently became the River City Lancers and moved to a new arena in Council Bluffs.
Silver said Alan Baer didn't take his success for granted. "He felt he was fortunate in his business life and had an obligation to give to the community and its causes."
Besides his business life, Baer loved his family, Silver said."He was a very devoted husband and father, and loved his family as much as he could."