From the fast track to the race track, AFG Industries Chairman R.D. Hubbard is a man who picks winners.
"He likes to win," said Ron Tiller, manager of AFG's largest plant. "He likes to win at golf. He likes to win at tennis. He's a winner. It's just part of him."
Hubbard's latest contest is a proposed $883-million buyout of AFG, the Irvine manufacturing giant he has shepherded from fifth to second place in the nation's highly competitive flat-glass industry.
Known as "Dee" to his friends and business associates, Hubbard was born 52 years ago in Smith Center, Kan., the eighth child of Miner and Loese Hubbard. His parents operated Smith Center's ice business, and Hubbard's first job was hauling blocks of ice of 25 and 50 pounds.
After a short stint in a Kansas community college, Hubbard--by then a husband and father of two--left to become a teacher and basketball coach in Towanda, Kan.
He later returned to a four-year college, where he studied business on a basketball scholarship. After graduating, he became a $90-a-week glass salesman for an automobile glassmaker in Wichita.
Hubbard lives in Newport Beach and also owns property in Palm Desert and Lexington, Ky.
The glass magnate's friends and associates describe Hubbard as a flamboyant, imposing man with a sterling record of buying quarter horses and thoroughbreds at low prices--horses that have gone on to win big at the track.
Take Sixy Chick, a mare bought for $60,000 who later won $900,000. Or Denim and Diamonds, whose $32,500 price tag was more than recouped by $800,000 won on the race track.
"He likes to buy short and sell long," said Bruce Rimbo, editor of the Cypress-based magazine QuarterWeek. "He's impulsive to a point but not completely so. He usually surrounds himself with pretty good people."
Tiller said the glass magnate puts in regular workdays of 14 to 16 hours, and "no one person can keep up with him. It's like being on a relay team trying to keep up with him."
But beneath Hubbard's fast-paced exterior is a strong core of fairness, Tiller said.
"Everybody who works for him respects him for his business sense, work ethic, the way he treats people," he said.
"If you mess up . . . he doesn't nail you to the wall. If you're out there trying to do things, he knows you're going to make mistakes. He's more than fair."
Related story, Page 1, this section.