August 24, 1920|
|Died||September 1, 2004
Herbert H. Haft (August 24, 1920 – September 1, 2004) was a Washington, D.C. based businessman who was famous first for the development of discount stores in the drug store, bookstore, and auto part businesses, and later as a corporate raider.
Haft grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of a Russian-immigrant pharmacist. Trained as a pharmacist at George Washington University, Haft opened the first Dart Drug discount store in 1955 in Washington, which he sold in 1984 at which time the chain had 75 stores. He also founded (with family members) Crown Books (which was led by son Robert Haft), Trak Auto, Combined Properties, and Total Beverage, and acquired part of Shoppers Food Warehouse.
Haft's Dart Group earned $250 million through greenmail and stock sales during unsuccessful takeover attempts of retailers Safeway and Stop & Shop. In the 1990s he was involved in widely publicized conflict with his sons Ronald and Robert Haft, and wife Gloria Haft over control of the Dart Group, a family business.
In a 1986 speech to a group of George Washington University alumni, Haft said that the secret of his success, was to borrow big: "If you owe someone several thousand dollars, you can't always sleep at night. If you owe someone several million dollars, the banker or supplier can't sleep. It's no use both of you worrying."
In 1998, Total Beverage was sold to Total Wine & More and the remainder of Dart Group, except Crown Books, was purchased by Richfood, a grocery distributor for $200 million. Richfood quickly sold Trak Auto to a Tennessee investment group. Crown Books filed for bankruptcy, and limped along on private investment until its closure in 2001.
In a famous antitrust case, Parke-Davis & Co., threatened to stop supplying Haft's Dart Drug because of its discounts to customers, a court case that went to the United States Supreme Court, which found in favor of the retailer and against the supplier.
- Dart Group Corporation, FundingUniverse
- Broken In Haft, Time Magazine, August 23, 1993 By John Greenwald;Tresa Chambers/New York & Ellen Germain/Washington
- Discount visionary Haft dies from heart disease, Drug Store News, September 27, 2004 by James Frederick.