The founder of Beal Bank is seriously rich and seriously smart. Now he’s serious about shooting for the stars.

So, JUST WHO DOES THIS ANDY BEAL FELLOW think he is anyway? Let’s review. He thinks he’s a banker. Check. He launched his eponymous Beal Bank, headquartered on the Tollway at Arapaho, at the height-or, rather, depth-of me Texas S&L debacle. For the past five years, the bank has averaged a net income of $50 million on assets of $1.3 billion. He owns 99 percent of it.

He thinks he’s a successful businessman.

Check. See above, plus two decades’ worth of personal real estate dealings in four states.

He thinks he’s a player in the esoteric game of number theory.

Check again. In 1997. using his bank’s computers, he started looking into a problem closely tied to Fermat’s famous Last Theorem, When he announced the problem’s existence, it became known in the tight-knit world of theoretical mathematics as the Beal Conjecture.

He thinks he can build rockets. Whoa. Reality check.

He thinks he can build rockets?

Yes, he does. And he’s willing input his assets where his ambitions are.

Although he has no background in aerospace, aviation, engineering, or any science. Beal is building a rocket in the Frisco plant he constructed and maintains without a penny of outside investment.

Andrew Beal might be called a man with a restless intellect. At the moment, contemplating a reporter’s question in his office, he’s a man with restless fingers.

He fiddles with a binder clip, toys with die cord of the phone on his cluttered desk, picks up several papers in rapid succession, glances at them, and puts them back down. Then he rakes his hands through short, dark hair that shows the first sprinklings of grey.

That leads his hands to the stem of his eyeglasses, so he takes them off and holds them to the light, squints through them, and puts them back on.

Then he goes back to the binder clip. Click. click, click. He snaps it open, flicks it closed. and losses it back into the paperclip holder on his jumbled desk.

He makes another pass with his fingers through his, by now, disheveled hair, then laces the fingers of both hands together behind his head, tilts back in his desk chair, and gazes speculatively at the ceiling.

And then something unusual happens.

Hyperkinetic Andrew Beal-Highland Park father of five, banker, real estate developer, amateur mathematical theorist, and fledgling aerospace entrepreneur-is perfectly still. Il lasts only as long as it takes him to consider an answer to the question.

You seem to have a penchant for taking chances in business. Why?

“I’m not sure I’d call it taking chances-1 think of it as attributing a different level of risk to a problem than the rest of the world attributes to it. I’m not that much of a risk taker. I just take situations thai people perceive to he high risk, and 1 decide that they can he managed to low risk, I’m really very conservative.”

Then the motion marathon is on again.

Risk? What risk? He’s invested tens of millions of his own dollars in an as-yet-untested product. It is being developed by a two-year-old company with no chance of making a profit for at least two more years. He’s entered an embryonic commercial aerospace industry, which is capital intensive and highly competitive.

“People told me I was crazy. Someone said I was having a midlife crisis,” says Beal. “I thought il was a reasoned decision and continue to believe it’s a reasoned decision. It can be managed to very acceptable risk.”

Andrew Beal may be restless, but he is not nervous.

As the 200-plus employees of Beal Aerospace bustle outside their boss’ second-floor office, Andy Beal is energized. He’s excited. He’s enthusiastic.

Beat’s enthusiasm surrounds him like a force field from a science fiction novel. It is a palpable thing, almost shimmering in the air around him. It lights his eyes and infuses his movements to such a degree that it would he easy to believe the electricity powering the lights, computers, and other machinery in the 163,000-square-foot Frisco plant comes not from TX’U. but from Beal himself. And in a way, it does. Even more than his money, Beal’s vision and his enthusiasm propel Beal Aerospace.

“Andy just convinces you,” says Walter J, Lewis, Beal’s vice president of business development. A 30-year veteran of the aerospace business, Lewis left industry giant Boeing in June to work for Beal. “He has a vision, and I believe in that vision.”

But can Beal succeed?

Can a Texas millionaire with no college degree and a background in real estate and banking do what Beal plans to do: become the premier private commercial launch company id the world by designing and building a rocket for sending commercial payloads into space at a (relatively) low cost?

THE U.S. COMMERCIAL SPACE TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY CELEBRAT-ed its 10th anniversary this year and is looking at a bright future-a future Beal plans to dominate. The recent boom in satellite-based telecommunications has sent the demand for launch vehicles soaring. Earth imaging and weather tracking are already big business. New space-based technologies such as CD-quality radio transmission are in development, and they will need launch services, further increasing demand.

“This is a very, very young industry, and the potential for growth is huge,” says Marco Caceres. space analyst at the Teal Group, a Fairfax-based consulting firm for die aerospace and defense industries. He predicts there will he 850-900 space launches that will generate $49.5 billion in business between 2000 and 2009.

1998 was the single biggest year yet for the domestic space industry, with 22 commercial launches. The FAA-which licenses all rockets and rocket launches from U.S. territory and all launches by U.S.-based companies-expects the industry to match or exceed that number in 2000. Only three companies-Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Orbital Services-currently have FAA approval to conduct commercial space launches.

That leaves a lot of room for competition, and Beal is ready to rumble.

His weapon of choice is the BA-2, a three-stage, 200-foot-tall rocket with a 25-ibot-taiI. 20-foot-diameter payload compartment. For the aerospace uninitiated-that’s a big rocket that can boost a lot of hardware into space. And the bigger the payload, the bigger the payoff.

Beal believes the BA-2 will blast him past any competitors, leaving them eating his rocket fuel fumes. Beal is going back to an old concept, namely, using hydrogen peroxide and kerosene to fuel his rockets. When the hydrogen peroxide oxidizes, it ignites the kerosene, so Beal is able to eliminate the cost of developing and producing an ignition system for his rocket. An environment-friendly fringe benefit is that hydrogen peroxide breaks down into hydrogen and water. He scrapped plans for a smaller rocket (which would lift smaller payloads) in favor of the BA-2 when he became convinced the market will need the bigger rocket by the time he is ready to launch in about two years.

It’s not the first time Beal has altered his plans for Beal Aerospace. Originally, he envisioned starting a satellite company. In 1995 he was presiding over a very profitable bank when he read an article about (he growing satellite business. As a self-described space buff, he was intrigued. But the process and cost of getting a satellite into orbit was daunting.

Hmmmm, the cost of getting a satellite into orbit.The cost of getting a satellite into orbit…

The ember of an idea sparked by mat solitary magazine article flashed into the blaze that doesn’t drive Beal so much as lures him, entices him-and, by proxy, kindles enthusiasm in those around him.

So what that the market is dominated by Lockheed and Boeing? “Andy relishes the opportunity to compete against the entrenched players,” says Beal’s friend, Brad Oates, vice chairman of Bluebonnet Savings and Loan.

Beal started a two-year course ol’ independent research-he read books, loured aerospace facilities, consulted with engineers, observed launches-that culminated in the founding of Beal Aerospace in 1997. it is the third business he has started in the Dallas area, and Beal says it will he his last.

Andy Beal arrived in Dallas from Michigan by way of Waco. The middle child of an engineer and a state government employee, the Lansing native was an entrepreneur from the get-go. He went from mowing lawns and staging quarter-a-shot neighborhood carnivals to repairing and reselling old television sets. When a new highway in his hometown caused homes in the path of the proposed roadway to be vacated, he went into the house relocation business. That led to real estate, and while he was a student at Michigan Slate University, he began buying and selling rental property.


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