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Steve McCracken, Former Lycra Chief

Steve McCracken, the charismatic former president of Lycra Worldwide who made the brand into a global powerhouse, died of stomach cancer Thursday at his...

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Steve McCracken in 1998

Steve McCracken in 1998.

Photo By WWD Staff

Steve McCracken, the charismatic former president of Lycra Worldwide who made the brand into a global powerhouse, died of stomach cancer Thursday at his home in Toledo, Ohio. He was 54.

McCracken headed the Lycra spandex business in Europe from 1988 to 1992, and doubled the worldwide Lycra operation to a volume of almost $2 billion when it was part of the Textiles & Interiors division of DuPont Inc.

During his five-year tenure as president of Lycra Worldwide, which ended in 2003, McCracken built the Lycra business into a $3.5 billion operation. He served as president and chief executive officer of the $6.3 billion Invista Inc. textile business from April 2003 to January 2004, after it had been sold to Koch Industries.

McCracken left Invista in 2004. Until poor health forced him to leave in 2006, he was chairman and ceo of Owens-Illinois Inc., the largest manufacturer of glass containers in the world.

Known as a maverick and innovative leader among his peers at corporate-oriented DuPont, McCracken's spirit was reflected in his hands-on approach and casual attire, often wearing khaki pants and a chambray shirt with rolled-up sleeves amid the pinstripe suits of his colleagues at the firm's Wilmington, Del., headquarters.

A tennis enthusiast for most of his life, McCracken was a strong competitor both in the boardroom or on the court. His legacy included a collegial style, wit and infectious humor, and many of his employees throughout his 32-year career considered him a mentor and a friend.

Bill Ghitis, former president of Invista's Global Apparel business, remembered McCracken as a "fun-loving guy who gave me a huge break."

"He believed in giving people an opportunity," said Ghitis, who now oversees Bian International, a global business management company specializing in textiles, apparel and luxury goods. "I will always be grateful to him because eventually he gave me the opportunity to become the global leader for Lycra and nylon. If he had not gone to bat for me with DuPont at the beginning, it just wouldn't have happened."

Ghitis said he first met McCracken in Geneva in 1990 when McCracken was the business director of Lycra in Europe. "Steve lived intensely," Ghitis said. "You may have disagreed with his strategies or thoughts, but he was a can-do guy and certainly was a breath of fresh air in Europe, where it was so staid and conservative."
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