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Bush names old friend, a Dallas developer, to run library foundation








Dallas developer and longtime donor will run foundation



12:00 AM CST on Saturday, November 10, 2007

By TODD J. GILLMAN / The Dallas Morning News



WASHINGTON – President Bush has chosen a former next-door neighbor – Dallas hotel developer Mark Langdale, now the ambassador to Costa Rica – to run the foundation planning his presidential library at Southern Methodist University.


A longtime Bush friend and donor, Mr. Langdale, 54, will serve as president of the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation starting Jan. 1, overseeing daily operations, hiring staff, managing construction and coordinating with the National Archives.


"Ambassador Langdale brings strong leadership skills to the library effort," Mr. Bush said in a prepared statement announcing the appointment Friday.


In real estate, location is everything. So it was with George and Laura Bush and Mark and Patty Langdale. The men became friends when the future president and his family moved to Northwood Drive, just off Preston Road and Northwest Highway. Mr. Langdale had some extra office space, and Mr. Bush needed a place to work.


They shared a suite throughout Mr. Bush's tenure as managing partner of the Texas Rangers and during his run for governor in 1994.


The president called him a "good friend" and said his experience in business and real estate development will prepare him for the complexity of the project – an archive, museum and policy institute whose price tag could reach $500 million.


Mr. Langdale has served as ambassador since 2005. After a decade practicing law in Houston, he co-founded CapRock Communications Corp., a satellite communications provider. Before Mr. Bush sent him to Costa Rica, he spent 16 years as president of Posadas USA, a subsidiary of Mexico City-based Grupo Posadas, the largest hotel management company in Latin America.


During Mr. Bush's second term as governor, Mr. Langdale chaired the Texas Department of Economic Development.


In the 2000 presidential campaign, he was one of Mr. Bush's fundraising "Pioneers" – backers who pledged to raise at least $100,000. Campaign records show he gave $55,000 to Mr. Bush's gubernatorial efforts, making him one of the top 10 donors, plus $126,000 to the Republican Party in the last seven years and tens of thousands more to other candidates.


Sherry Renfro, director of accounting for Posadas USA, worked with him for 15 years and called him both easygoing and an inspiring leader.


"If you can't get along with Mark Langdale, you can't get along with anybody," she said. "He's a very reasoned, low-key person, and I'm just so proud that he's taking over this library."


She recalled the days when Mr. Bush used the company's offices. Her boss and Mr. Bush enjoyed an easy relationship. Both had kids, and both had a sweet tooth requiring a constant supply of M&Ms.


"He was just one of us," she said. "They have a true friendship."


Mr. Langdale will resign as ambassador by the end of the year to work full time on the library, where presidential documents will be stored and studied, and where the president's legacy will be nurtured and shaped. A related policy institute will "offer a place for world leaders, scholars and experts to discuss, debate and advance public policy ideas," according to a statement from the Bush foundation.


At the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, aides said Mr. Langdale was traveling and couldn't be reached Friday. As ambassador, Mr. Langdale has pushed administration trade policy, occasionally angering labor groups and anti-globalization activists. He has spent much of the last year advocating ratification of the free-trade deal between the U.S. and Costa Rica, which voters in the Central American nation approved last month.


In his new role, he'll work with the Bushes and with the committee that's been in exclusive negotiations all year with SMU, led by longtime Bush friend and former Commerce Secretary Don Evans.


The library eventually will also have an executive director, but no timetable for that has been announced.


Mr. Langdale probably also will share responsibility for raising money. The Bush library is expected to be the costliest and most ambitious presidential library yet built.


The fact that Mr. Langdale lives in Dallas – he owns a $2.2 million home in the Preston Hollow neighborhood – provides yet another signal that the Dallas site is a near-certainty. One of his two children attends SMU. But university vice president Brad Cheves was careful to note that no deal has been sealed.


Pete Kline, another Dallas hotel developer who has known Mr. Langdale for years, called him "a great pick."


"He knows an awful lot of people around town," Mr. Kline said, and with his experience building hotels, overseeing construction and development of a library "is no big deal. ... He's definitely a smart guy."

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