They sold us surfboards and sports cars, Linux, chicken, Miracle-Gro, and vacations among the Eskimo. A fond look back at the remarkable entrepreneurs who died in 2005.
Dr. Frederick H. Berenstein, 59, Linux pioneer, in New York City. Berenstein was one of the first people to persuade Wall Street that the Linux operating system and open-source software were legitimate rivals to Microsoft. He started several software firms, including Linux Global Partners and Progressive Solutions. His last venture, Ottawa-based Xandros, makes a Linux-based utility that can run Microsoft Word and Excel.
John DeLorean, 80, founder of DeLorean Motor Co., in Summit, N.J. An early fan of offshoring, this would-be auto pioneer (right) set up his factory in Northern Ireland. After producing just 9,000 of the distinctive gull-winged vehicles there, DeLorean was arrested for drug trafficking. Authorities alleged that he tried to sell $24 million in cocaine to raise money for the faltering car venture; DeLorean was eventually acquitted on the grounds that he was entrapped.
Horace Hagedorn, 89, founder of Miracle-Gro, in Sands Point, N.Y. Thanks to suburbanization, Hagedorn's fertilizer grew into an iconic postwar brand.
John H. Johnson, 87, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, in Chicago. Using his mother's furniture as collateral, Johnson borrowed $500 in 1942 to launch a publishing business, which later expanded into television stations and a line of cosmetics. "Money," he wrote in his 1989 autobiography, "is perhaps the greatest of all civil rights bills."
Mortimer Levitt, 98, founder of Custom Shop Shirtmakers, in Green's Farms, Conn. He authored five books including How to Start Your Own Business Without Losing Your Shirt: Secrets of Seventeen Successful Entrepreneurs--all of them written after he turned 75.
James R. Lewis, 84, and Alice Lewis, 83, co-owners of Lewis Marine Supply, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. This husband and wife team passed away within days of each other in May; the couple had worked side by side for nearly 50 years to build one of the country's top wholesale suppliers of boating equipment.
Jerome Lippman, 92, founder of GOJO Industries, in Akron. Working in his basement in 1946, Lippman invented a special grease-cutting soap that his wife, who worked at a rubber factory, could use. Owing largely to another of his creations, Purell hand sanitizer, GOJO's revenue now exceeds $100 million a year.
John J. McMullen, 87, founder of John J. McMullen Associates, in Montclair, N.J. McMullen was one of the first people to manage shipping lines between the U.S. and China. Later in life, he owned the Houston Astros and the New Jersey Devils, who won two Stanley Cups for him. He is perhaps best remembered for saying, of his minority stake in the New York Yankees, "There's nothing quite so limited as being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner's."
Gary Milgard, 68, founder of Milgard Windows, in Tacoma, Wash. After he sold his window manufacturing company for a reported $875 million, Milgard donated $15 million to the University of Washington's business school, which was named in his honor.
Robert Moog, 71, founder of Moog Music, in Asheville, N.C. Moog, who invented the music synthesizer, was forced to sell his company in 1971 to pay off $250,000 in debt. Three decades later, he regained use of the trademark and released a new product. "He was quiet," says famed entrepreneur Ray Kurzweil, who gave Moog a job after he sold his company. "But when he shared an opinion, it was a voice of authority."
Frank Perdue, 84, founder of Perdue Farms, in Salisbury, Md. Though environmental and food safety activists have criticized his business practices in recent years, Perdue built his father's backyard egg business into a $2.8 billion multinational giant that sells more than 50 million pounds of chicken and turkey each week. Along the way, he appeared in 156 folksy TV ads claiming, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken."
Richard H. Sabot, 61, co-founder of Tripod, in Williamstown, Mass. Together with student Bo Peabody, this Williams College professor started one of the first dot-coms, a Web-based business that enabled people to build homepages. They sold it to Lycos for $58 million in 1998.
John E. Struggles, 91, co-founder of Heidrick & Struggles, in Winnetka, Ill. Struggles and Gardner W. Heidrick essentially invented the executive search industry in 1953. Over the years, they placed CEOs at IBM, AT&T, and Kodak.
Kenneth Taylor, 88, founder of Tyndale House, in Wheaton, Ill. When Taylor's abridged version of the Scriptures was rejected by publishers, he started his own printing business. The Living Bible has since sold 40 million copies. Taylor's Tyndale House is now a $100 million company that publishes a large catalog of Christian books including the wildly successful Left Behind series on the Rapture.
Dale "The Hawk" Velzy, 77, founder of Velzy Surfboards, in San Diego. Velzy opened what is thought to be the first surf shop in 1949, selling handcrafted boards named the Bump and the Pig. At its peak, the business sold 200 boards a week from five stores in Hawaii and California. A dispute with the IRS wiped out the business in 1959, but Velzy continued to sell boards independently until this year. A break on the North Shore of Oahu is named for him.
Charles West, 90, tourism pioneer, in Haines, Alaska. Considered the father of Alaska's $1.8 billion tourism industry, West started out as a bush pilot flying thrill-seekers upcountry. He then founded the state's first travel agency and tour company, and built hotels. His biggest company, Cruise West, operates eight cruise ships, and its revenue topped $50 million last year.
Last updated: Dec 1, 2005
DARREN DAHL is a contributing editor at Inc. Magazine, which he has written for since 2004. He also works as a collaborative writer and editor and has partnered with several high-profile authors. Dahl lives in Asheville, NC.