Former Sealy CEO, Howard Haas, dies

Former Sealy CEO Howard Haas, who died recently at 92, was “a man of vision, wisdom, discipline and integrity,” the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame said when Haas was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
Howard Haas
Hall of Fame officials said that Haas led Sealy “to unprecedented growth and renown in the home furnishings industry. During his 19-year-tenure as president, CEO and director of Sealy Inc., company revenues increased from $32 million to more than $550 million without the acquisition of a competitor or supplier.” They added that because of his strong legacy of marketing expertise, “Sealy Posturepedic continues to be among the most recognizable brands in the industry.”

A graduate of the University of Michigan, where he was honored as a Goldstein Scholar, Haas joined Sealy in 1956 as sales manager. He was promoted to vice president of marketing in 1960 and to president in 1965. His leadership skills attracted top talent, and he instilled in them the pride of being No. 1 and the importance of sharing best practices, the Hall of Fame said in its biography of Haas.

The biography said that Haas integrated a group of 34 independent Sealy licensees into a unified entity, providing efficient services. He developed information technology systems to lower the level of raw materials and reduce the need for finished goods in factories, resulting in the best return on capital in the bedding industry. A committee to oversee manufacturing techniques in all company factories ensured there was no product variation and improved operations so that products could be delivered to customers in as little as a single day, officials said. His first in-store display showcased Posturepedic bedding and was among the first in the industry to envision the potential of sleep shops, the Hall of Fame said.

After retiring from Sealy in 1986, Haas joined the faculty of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where he served as an adjunct professor of strategic management. Teaching MBA classes from 1988 to 2009, he specialized in classes on the practice of leadership and strategy in business. He organized and taught the university’s first graduate-level course on leadership, which was recognized by CEO magazine. Among his published work was “The Leader Within,” a book written with Bob Tamarkin.

A first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, Haas flew more than 50 missions over Axis-occupied Europe, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters.

Active in the community, he served as president of the Orchestra of Illinois and on the school board for the Glencoe School System. He also was a member of the Print and Drawing Committee of the Art Institute of Chicago, on the board of directors for the Jewish Children’s Bureau and a member of the Visiting Committee of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. He was a founding member of Congregation Solel.

Private serves for Haas were held.

Survivors include his wife Kaye, son Jon, daughter Jody, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to Congregation Solel, 1301 Clavey Rd., Highland Park, Ill. 60035; the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1155 East 58th St., Chicago, Ill. 60637; or the donor’s favorite charity.

Source: Furniture Today