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Texas Builder Leo Linbeck Jr. Championed Tough Causes

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Linbeck was the go-to guy to lead an independent probe of the Texas A&M bonfire structure collapse; the 1999 accident killed 12 students and injured 27.
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Leo Linbeck Jr., who led Houston-based Linbeck Group LLC to become a regional building giant and took on high-profile causes in Texas and nationwide, died in Houston on June 8 at age 78 from complications of a heart attack suffered in March, say firm officials.

Linbeck, who was senior chairman, had been, since the mid-1960s, CEO of the firm his father founded in 1938. He pioneered the TeamBuild process in 1967 and championed lean construction and integrated project delivery. The firm ranks at No. 238 on ENR's 2013 Top 400 Contractors list, with $413 million in 2012 revenue and is among the Top 100 CM-at-Risk Firms. Leo Linbeck III is chairman.

The firm counts Houston’s $352-million, 1.9 million-sq.-ft. Reliant Stadium (2002) and the 2,056-seat Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth (1998) among its key projects.

Linbeck

Linbeck also led a commission that probed the 1999 collapse of a celebratory football bonfire at Texas A&M University that killed 12 students and injured 27.

The failure was due to containment wire that was too weak for the 2-million-lb, six-layer structure and to aggressive wedging of its first- and second-tier logs that increased stresses, as did the almost vertical log placement and slight ground slope, said the panel report, said a May 2000 report in ENR.

Such bonfires have been officially banned at Texas A&M since then, says the university. The efforts of Linbeck, who did not attend the school, were uncompensated.

In a June 17 tribute, former Texas A&M President Ray M. Bowen said "it soon became evident to us that, if he would do it, Leo had the experience, the independence, the credibility and the integrity to lead this effort. He made it clear that he would not cover up or hold back any information critical of Texas A&M."

Linbeck also was a crusader for tax and tort reform in Texas and the U.S. He was founder, chairman and a key benefactor of Americans for Fair Taxation, a non-profit whose "FairTax plan" pushed to create a national sales tax and abolish the federal income tax and the IRS.

In a 2011 appeal to donors, Linbeck claimed 350,000 names in the group database. He also co-founded Texans for Lawsuit Reform.

"We hope that the reforms in Texas are not an anomaly. The reforms and the process by which they were accomplished can be cloned," said an ENR editorial in 1996. "There's no better gift the construction industry could give itself and the country than a civil justice system of unquestioned fairness and balance."

Nearly two decades later, Leo Linbeck III, 50, founded the Campaign for Primary Accountability, a political action committee whose goal is to unseat unpopular incumbents in U.S. House primary races. He contributed $1.1 million of the group's $1.5 million in 2012 donations used in political season advertising.

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