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This frame grab from a video on the Cabela's website shows Richard Cabela hunting in Tanzania with his wife, Mary.

Richard Cabela, co-founder of outdoor retailer, dies at 77

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Richard Cabela, co-founder of outdoor retailer, dies at 77
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

By Nancy Moran

Bloomberg News

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Richard N. Cabela, an avid hunter who co-founded the direct marketer and retailer of outdoor gear Cabela's, has died. He was 77.

He died Monday at his home in Sidney, Neb., 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, Neb., 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.

In 1999, Cabela’s announced its plans to build a store in Mitchell after years of negotiations and help from the late Harold Hagen, the former owner of Mitchell Plastics and Mitchell Manufacturing who had a business relationship and a hunting friendship with Cabela.

“That connection opened the door for our work with Cabela’s,” said Bryan Hisel, executive director of the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce and Mitchell Development Corp.

Cabela’s decision to locate a store in Mitchell has made a remarkable difference in the economic development of an area of the city south of Interstate 90.  

The visibility of the Mitchell Cabela’s, located directly south of I-90, has helped change how the city itself is perceived, Hisel said.

“It changed the image of Mitchell,” he said.

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 in Chappell, Neb., on Oct. 8, 1936, to A.C. and Marian Cabela, company spokesman Joe Arterburn said in a telephone interview.

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 Monday's statement.

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

See a recent video interview of Cabela and his wife at the Cabela's website.

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