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...

Linda Kearns, communications director for Invista Apparel, who had worked with McCracken at DuPont for six years, said, "To me, Steve was a great leader, a great friend and a great teacher. His inspiration has impacted me, my job, my life."

Carol Gee, chief communications officer at Owens-Illinois and former global brand manager at Invista, said, "I knew Steve in New York before working for him in '93 at Corian and later Lycra. I think I'm no different than any other person who was ever touched by the man. The amazing thing about Steve as a business leader is that people always remembered how he made you feel. He was either the smartest man in the room who never made you feel dumb or he was the big guy who came in the room and didn't make you feel smaller. He was a pied piper of people."

In an interview in 2000 in Lyon, France, where the Lycra stand was a mainstay at the Lyon, Mode City trade fair, McCracken talked about his stay in Geneva, joking that he couldn't find a good hamburger in Switzerland. Some associates in the U.S. got wind of McCracken's displeasure and overnighted him a crate of White Castle burgers.

When McCracken returned to the U.S. in 1993, he was assigned to turn around DuPont's then-floundering Corian business. McCracken thrived on challenges, and in three years tripled annual revenues for the division to more than $1.5 billion by taking Corian beyond kitchen and bathroom products to a lifestyle-driven image in magazines and TV.

At the time, a plaque with an oversize Corian carrot with the saying "In Case of Emergency..." was displayed at his former office in Wilmington. Asked about the plaque, McCracken told WWD, "In advertising, I don't like an image of enticing and selling. I get upset about pushing and selling. It all seems less noble to me quite frankly. I think the idea is to give consumers what they want — value. They don't need to be enticed, surprised or tricked."

McCracken grew up in Franklin, Ind., a farming community of 10,000, where his father managed the only movie theater and his mother was a bank teller. At age 10, he began picking up the trash in the cinema for $3.50 an hour.
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