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Richard Cabela, Founder of Namesake Retailer, Dies at 77

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Cabela's Co-founder Richard N. Cabela
Richard N. Cabela, co-founder of Cabela's Inc., poses for a portrait in this undated handout photograph released to the media on Feb. 18, 2014. Cabela has died. He was 77. Source: Cabela’s Inc. via Bloomberg

Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Richard N. Cabela, an avid hunter who co-founded the direct marketer and retailer of outdoor gear Cabela’s Inc., has died. He was 77.

He died yesterday at his home in Sidney, Nebraska, his company said in a statement. No cause was given.

Cabela handed chairmanship of the $3.6 billion seller of guns, camping gear and clothing to his younger brother Jim in June, transitioning to the role of chairman emeritus.

He founded the company in 1961 with his wife, Mary, and brother when he bought $45 of hand-tied fishing flies during a trip to Chicago with his father. The purpose of the trip was to stock the family’s Chappell, Nebraska, furniture store with goods including housewares.

When the flies didn’t sell, Dick Cabela, as he was known, placed an ad in Sports Afield magazine offering five for free. From there, he and his wife accumulated the names and addresses of customers who would then receive a three-page mimeographed catalog of more fishing gear.

In addition to its catalog business, Cabela’s operates a website and 50 stores in the U.S. and Canada. For its fiscal year ended Dec. 28, the company, also based in Sidney, posted a 22 percent increase in net income on an adjusted basis to $238.3 million on $3.21 billion of merchandise sales.

Richard Neil Cabela was born on Oct. 8, 1936, to A.C. and Marian Cabela, company spokesman Joe Arterburn said in a telephone interview. His birthplace was Chappell, Nebraska.

‘True Friend’

He was inducted into the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame in 2006, according to the company’s statement. In 2001, he received the C.J. McElroy Award from the Safari Club International for his work promoting the tradition of hunting, and in 2007 was named among the top 25 “most influential people in hunting and fishing” along with his brother by Outdoor Life magazine.

He received an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree from Regis University in Denver in 2010, where he attended from 1956 to 1958, according to Marquis Who’s Who.

“Outdoorsmen and women have lost a true friend, a man who improved their lot by putting them first, by working to provide what they wanted and needed for their hunting and fishing adventures,” Cabela’s Chief Executive Officer Tommy Millner said in the statement.

Cabela is survived by his wife, nine children, two sisters and three brothers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Moran in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Charles W. Stevens at

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