Frederick Luber, a Milwaukee business leader who twice built Milwaukee-based Super Steel into a thriving company, died Thursday at the age of 90.
His son Paul Luber, the chairman of Super Steel, called him an “incredible, visionary business leader with tremendous entrepreneurial spirit.”
“Who else would buy back the company they earlier sold at age 85?” Paul Luber said.
Fred Luber first purchased Super Steel in 1965 when the company had just 13 employees. By 1975, the company had grown to 50 employees and was breaking ground on a new facility on Tower Avenue. The company would grow over the years to just over 400 employees today and a 450,000-square-foot facility.
“His heart and soul was in that company from day one,” Luber said, adding his dad felt people were at the foundation of what the company did and lived his life with that in mind.
“Outside of all this he was a quiet family man,” he said.
The growth didn’t come without hardship, though. Luber sold the company to a management team and retired in 2005. The challenges of the Great Recession and high debt levels made the company unmanageable and the company ended up in receivership. Luber and Paul repurchased the company and worked to rebuild it.
“It was just way too much a part of him to think it might not come out of receivership or it falls into hands that don’t keep it like it was,” Paul Luber said. “I think he was very troubled with those thoughts, but he was also excited to get back into the game.”
Paul Luber said his dad continued to come into the office until recently, adding that he continued to ask the right questions.
“His business mind was sharp as a tack until the end,” Luber said.
The company was recognized by BizTimes as the family-owned business of the year in 2013 for the turnaround efforts. Frederick Luber was also a recipient of a Bravo! Entrepreneur award in 2014.
His obituary describes him as “an entrepreneurial tiger who also heavily engaged in politics and community.” Other passions included his family, Fred & Fuzzy’s and Little Sister Resort in Door County. His love of boating earned him the nickname “Skippy,” the obituary says.
Luber was a Milwaukee native, attended Whitefish Bay High School and served in Europe in the U.S. Army during World War II. He received a degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University and an honorary doctorate from Milwaukee School of Engineering, according to his obituary.
A visitation was Saturday at Feerick Funeral Home. The family is planning a private service and celebration of his life at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, Luber’s obituary asks for memorial donations to Discovery World, The Charles E. Kubly Foundation, or The Nature Conservancy – for Door County.