Max Hugel, 81; Led Reagan Effort in N.H.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Max Hugel, 81, a businessman who helped guide Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign in New Hampshire and then briefly served as deputy director of the CIA in 1981, died Feb. 19 of complications from cancer at his home in Ocala, Fla.

In 1980, then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan recruited Mr. Hugel to work on his New Hampshire primary effort. Mr. Hugel later chaired the Reagan/Bush national voters group division of the general election campaign, organizing farmers, minorities, small businessmen, women and others by issue interest rather than political affiliation.

After Reagan's election to president, Mr. Hugel moved to Washington and served as head of the Small Business Administration during the transition. Later, newly appointed CIA Director William J. Casey tapped Mr. Hugel, a close friend, to be deputy director for administration and then as deputy director for operations.

Mr. Hugel's stay with the CIA was short-lived. He resigned in July 1981 after a series of news reports alleged improper stock practices. Mr. Hugel later sued two brothers for libel in connection with the news reports and won.

He served as a member of President Richard M. Nixon's Economic Conference on Far Eastern Affairs and the National Commission on Employment Policy.

At his death, Mr. Hugel was vice chairman of Carmen Group Inc., a prominent Washington government affairs firm.

Mr. Hugel was born in the Bronx, N.Y., and grew up in an orphanage. At 18, he enlisted in the Army and attended the Military Intelligence School at the University of Michigan, where he became fluent in Japanese.

In 1954, Mr. Hugel was chief executive of Brother International Corp., the U.S. arm of the then-small Japanese exporter of sewing machines. Later, he was chief operating officer of Centronics Data Computer Corp. in New Hampshire, until taking a leave to join the Reagan campaign.

In 1983, Mr. Hugel and three partners purchased Rockingham Park, New England's oldest and largest thoroughbred race track, after a fire destroyed the facility. He then led the revival of Rockingham Park into one of New Hampshire's largest tourist attractions.

Mr. Hugel also became one of the earliest investors in the cellular phone industry, owning several communications companies.

Mr. Hugel loved the simplicities of life and took great pleasure watching his horses on his farm in Ocala or playing a round of golf.

Survivors include his wife, Diane Hugel of Ocala; four children, Susan Hugel of Parkland, Fla., Christine Robey of Goshen Ky., David Huge of Springfield and Richard Hugel of Oakton; and 10 grandchildren.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company