Fort Worth

Bernie Appel, longtime executive known as Mr. RadioShack, dies

Bernie Appel with his wife, Ellen, at the annual Fort Worth Opera Ball in September 2016.
Bernie Appel with his wife, Ellen, at the annual Fort Worth Opera Ball in September 2016. Star-Telegram

Bernie Appel was known as Mr. RadioShack.

Over a 34-year career that started before Charles Tandy brought the company to Fort Worth, Appel was credited with transforming the consumer electronics retailer from transistor radios and telephone jacks to computers and camcorders.

Appel died Sunday. He was 85.

The Boston native joined RadioShack in 1959, earning $125 a week as a merchandise buyer. He quickly rose to a management position and then moved to Fort Worth in 1970 when Charles Tandy appointed him vice president of merchandising.

Appel held several executive positions at Tandy Corp., leading the RadioShack chain as president for several years until he retired as its chairman in 1993.

During his tenure, Appel traveled to Asia at least three times a year, searching for the latest electronics and gadgets that RadioShack could sell for the right price.

“He understood what the customers wanted and the technology,” said Len Roberts, who succeeded Appel as RadioShack’s president and went on to become the company’s chairman and chief executive officer. “He was one of the biggest reasons for RadioShack’s success.”

On his first day on the job, Robert said, he went out to dinner with Appel and spent four to five hours learning all about the company.

“He taught me the importance of gross margin merchandising,” Roberts said. Under Appel, RadioShack’s profit margins reached 55 percent in the mid-1980s, and by the time he stepped down the company was generating $2.8 billion in revenues.

After he left RadioShack, Appel set up his own consulting firm and served on the boards of several local organizations, including Crime Stoppers of Tarrant County and the Crime Prevention Resource Center. He was also active in supporting the Fort Worth arts community, serving on the boards of Casa Manana and the Arts Council of Fort Worth. He was often seen attending the ballet, the opera and the symphony at Bass Hall.

Born in Dorchester, Mass., on Jan. 10, 1932, Appel was the youngest of four children. He had his first job at the age of 10, throwing newspapers and delivering groceries. He served in the Coast Guard from 1951 to 1954 and graduated from Boston University’s School of Management with an associate’s degree in commercial science.

Appel is survived by his wife, Ellen, his son, Jerry, and his daughter, Arlene and six grandchildren. Services will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Congregation Ahavath Sholom.

This article contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk