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Maheu remembered as 'gentle man'

Aug 12, 2008 7:03 PM

GT By staff | Robert Maheu, the man who once headed billionaire Howard Hughes’ Nevada operations, was characterized last Saturday as a kind, generous and caring man, even though he once "wielded power beyond your imagination."

Mr. Maheu passed away last week in Las Vegas at the age of 90. Funeral services were held at Saint Viator Catholic Church on Saturday.

In a eulogy delivered by longtime friend Joe Brown, Mr. Maheu was remembered as a "loyal and faithful friend" as well as a man dedicated to his family.

Bill Maheu remembered his dad as a doting father and grandparent, always ready to assist those closest to him.

"He was the sounding board for the entire family," Bill Maheu said. "I am not only proud of what my dad accomplished, I am proud of how he did it. He was a gentleman, and a gentle man."

Mr. Maheu’s personal life was in stark contrast to his professional career, which at times included the "cloak and dagger" elements that defined his intriguing employer, Howard Hughes.

Robert Maheu grew up in Waterville, Maine, where he set out to become a lawyer, but instead was recruited by the FBI to perform espionage work during World War II.

After the war he founded a security investigation company. One of his biggest clients was the CIA, which contracted Mr. Maheu to arrange for the assassination of Fidel Castro, who overthrew the Cuban government in 1959.

The plot attempt failed and the CIA scrapped their plan after the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion.

It was during this time that Mr. Maheu began consulting for Hughes, and was later hired to his $500,000 a year position, even though the two had never met in person.

Over the course of his career, Mr. Maheu said he "worked for or against seven of the 10 richest men in the world," in an early interview with GamingToday. "There wasn’t a happy one in the group," he continued. "And my former boss was the poorest man I’ve ever known."

Poor in the sense that the price tag for success came too high.

"Success can be intoxicating and sometimes it becomes difficult to breathe at such a high altitude."

The result, Mr. Maheu pointed out, is often doing the "wrong" thing, even inadvertently. "Sometimes you can lose sight of what it takes to have a happy heart and peace of mind."

As Howard Hughes right-hand man, Mr. Maheu experienced the trappings of success, and its pitfalls.

"We had everything – private jets, helicopters, yachts, unlimited expense accounts – everything. And we wielded power beyond your imagination.

"We had the kind of power to be able to call up the Academy Awards and request a last minute table; or call up the White House and request a meeting with the president, and get it.

"It can be confusing; I never thought I misused my power, but probably did inadvertently."

After Mr. Maheu’s split with the Hughes company, he returned to his security and consulting firm, and later wrote a book about the "Tragic Downfall" of Hughes.

Mr. Maheu is survived by three sons, Peter, Bill and Robert; 10 grandchildren; and 10 great grandchildren.