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Rusty Rose, Businessman, Philanthropist, And Former Texas Rangers Co-Owner, Has Died

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
In this 1997 'Fort Worth Star-Telegram' photo, Rusty Rose, middle right, was a co-managing partner of the Rangers from 1989 to 1998 and worked closely with Tom Schieffer, middle left, and George W. Bush to transition the team into a big-market franchise.

Edward "Rusty" Rose, a prominent Dallas businessman and former co-owner of the Texas Rangers, has died.

Rose was a dedicated philanthropist who helped various causes across North Texas. He died Friday after what his family described as a decades-long battle with severe clinical depression.

He was 74.

Rose was probably best known as a one-time co-owner of the Texas Rangers. He was part of an investor group, which included George W Bush, that owned the team for most of the 1990s. But Tom Schieffer, who was also part of the ownership group, says his famously media-shy friend didn’t start out as a baseball fan.

“I’m not sure really how many baseball games, major league baseball games that Rusty had been to before,” he recalls. “But like everything else he just dived right into it, did all the research he could, read everything he could, talked to everybody he could, and he went to the games every night and he became quite the baseball game and fell in love with the sport.”

Rose built his name and much of his fortune in finance. He founded Cardinal Investment Company in 1974. A 1978 Texas Monthly profile described Rose as “the best security analyst in the business.” Tom Schieffer called him “the original quant.”

Rose was interested in more than just finance. He was a devoted naturalist and bird watcher supported the Trinity River Audubon Center and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Tom Schieffer says Rose was perhaps the most intellectually curious person he’d ever met.

“He wanted to know everything about a subject that he was interested in,” Schieffer says. “Then he tried to do something to make those things better.”

Rose used his money to support a range of causes around Dallas, according to Kern Wildenthal, the president of the Children’s Medical Center Foundation. He says Rose often spread his wealth discreetly.

“Rusty Rose was very quiet with what he did for the community of Dallas, but he did a tremendous amount, much of it anonymously,” Wildenthal said.

In 2005, though, Rose and his wife Deedie made headlines when they and two other prominent art-collecting couples agreed to donate their modern art collections to the Dallas Museum of Art. It was valued at $215 million dollars. Melissa Fetter chairs the museum’s board. (Fetter is a former chair of KERA's board, where Deedie Rose also once served.) Fetter says Deedie Rose was the driving force behind the couple’s extensive arts philanthropy.

“And Rusty was always right there beside her as an enthusiastic partner, enabling Deedie to do all the wonderful things she’s done in Dallas, not only at the Dallas Museum of Art but at so many other institutions.”

Fetter says the bequest set off a wave of giving that helped the museum. In the last few years, Rusty Rose was an active board member of North Dallas Shared Ministries, which helps prevent homelessness.

“Here he was this extraordinarily wealthy man, with all the people he knew and all the things that he was involved with, and yet there was a humbleness about him, a niceness, a sweetness maybe, that made you not be intimidated by him,” recalled North Dallas Shared Ministries Executive Director Judy Rorrie.

She says he was always approachable.

Rorrie says Rose’s focus was always on helping the organization improve on its mission.

“Whatever guidance he gave it was in support and belief in the ministry and the desire to make things better,” she said.

Tom Schieffer says that was typical of Rose. Schieffer says he’ll always remember a rare public statement his friend made when they sold the Rangers in 1998. You can’t ever own a baseball team, Rose said, you can only try to be a good steward for those who love the game.

“He was a good steward in baseball but he was a good steward of life as well, and we’re all the beneficiaries of it.”

In a statement, former President George W. Bush called Rose “a dear friend, a great partner and a brilliant thinker.”

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has more on Rose and his impact on Rangers baseball.

Photo: Fort Worth Star-Telegram archives

Correction: Judy Rorrie is with North Dallas Shared Ministries, not North Texas Shared Ministries.

Christopher Connelly is a reporter covering issues related to financial instability and poverty for KERA’s One Crisis Away series. In 2015, he joined KERA to report on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. From Fort Worth, he also focused on politics and criminal justice stories.