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In Memoriam (2006)

We remember the great entrepreneurs who died this year, from the founders of K2 skis and Lands' End, to the woman who invented tortilla chips and Richard Branson's mentor.
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Thomas Arthur, 84, stadium concessionaire, in St. Louis. Although not a ballplayer, Arthur ranks right up there with Sandy Koufax and Fernando Valenzuela in Los Angeles Dodger lore, thanks to his invention, the Dodger Dog. Though Arthur Food Services originally billed the dog as a "foot-long" frank, it actually measures 10 inches--though fans have never seemed to mind the false advertising. According to a survey of Major League concessionaires in 2004, more hot dogs were consumed at Dodger Stadium (about 1.61 million) than at any other ballpark.

Robert Brooks, 69, chairman of Hooters of America, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Brooks turned a humble Florida bar into a chain with 435 locations in 46 states and 21 countries. Famous for its spicy wings and scantily clad waitresses, Hooters had its critics, but Brooks was unapologetic. "Good food, cold beer, and pretty girls never go out of style," he said in an interview in 2003. In recent years, Brooks tried to start a Hooters airline (it dropped commercial routes in 2006) and donated more than $5 million to Clemson University, his alma mater.

Rebecca Webb Carranza, 98, tortilla chip pioneer, in Phoenix. Carranza took machine-rolled rejects from her family's El Zarape Tortilla Factory in Los Angeles, cut the misshapen disks into wedges, and fried them for friends and family. Her Tort Chips proved so popular that she began selling them in the 1940s for 10 cents a bag. Chip sales soon became the main driver of the company's revenue. When competing products started popping up in the supermarkets, the Carranzas' business struggled to compete, until it shut down in 1967. In the '90s, the industry honored Carranza with lifetime achievement awards, and her death in February produced a round of newspaper obituaries hailing her ingenuity. "It's a shame that most of her fame has come after her death," says Carranza's son Mario. "But she knew she had a big impact on the culture."

Gary C. Comer, 78, founder of Lands' End, in Chicago. His was one of the first catalog companies to offer customers round-the-clock toll-free phone service and one of the earliest to go online. No small feat of customer service considering that, at last count, the Dodgeville, Wisconsin, company fields 100,000 calls a day during the holidays and more than 200,000 e-mails every year. Comer stepped down as president in 1990 but remained the majority shareholder until the company was sold to Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) in 2002 for $1.9 billion. In later years, Comer and his wife, Frances, donated more than $84 million to the University of Chicago children's hospital.

James Conway Sr., 78, co-founder of Mister Softee, in Ocean City, New Jersey. Conway, a Wharton graduate, and his brother William launched the company's first ice cream truck on St. Patrick's Day in 1956 in Philadelphia. Unlike other ice cream trucks, which served prepackaged fare, Mister Softee brought fresh soft-serve ice cream to street corners. Today the franchised business is made up of more than 600 of the customized trucks, rolling through neighborhoods in 15 states and pumping out that signature jingle.

Adrienne E. Davis, 71, advocate for minority business owners, in Milwaukee. In response to race riots in 1967, Davis founded the Central City Cooperative, a lending initiative, to encourage business ownership among African Americans in Milwaukee. That group produced the Sight Center, a network of eye-care providers, owned by members of the local African American community. Later, she started and ran another company, ADI, an office interior decorating firm. "She was a fighter," says Dester Martin, the head of Milwaukee's African American Chamber of Commerce. "In fact, at our last meet and greet, there she was in front of the governor requesting contracts for minorities from the state of Wisconsin."

J.B. Fuqua, 87, real estate and broadcast entrepreneur, in Atlanta. As a poor teenager growing up on his grandparents' Virginia tobacco farm, Fuqua wrote to Duke University requesting books on finance and banking, which an official sent to him, free of charge. At age 21, after a stint as a radio operator on a merchant marine ship, he convinced three businessmen to lend him money to start a radio station. Fuqua went on to build an Atlanta-based conglomerate that included radio and TV stations and industrial products companies. The business had an estimated $2 billion in revenue at its peak in 1979. Fuqua also served in the Georgia legislature and was Lyndon Johnson's friend and hunting companion. In 1980, Fuqua thanked Duke for its early generosity by donating $10 million to establish the highly regarded Fuqua School of Business.

Robert K. Hoffman, 59, co-founder of National Lampoon (AMEX:NLN) magazine, in Dallas. Along with two Harvard classmates, Hoffman turned a campus humor magazine into a national publication famous for its no-holds-barred comedy. The magazine spun off a series of records, a radio show, and movies, among them Animal House. After selling his interest, Hoffman partnered with his father to form the nation's fifth-largest bottler of Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO). A renowned art collector, Hoffman donated 224 pieces worth more than $150 million to the Dallas Museum of Art last year.

Doris Jones, 92, ballet school founder, in Washington, D.C. Jones started Washington's Jones-Haywood School of Ballet in 1941 to provide African American children with the chance to learn classical dance, something that wasn't available to her in her youth. As she put it, "I never want that door shut again in the face of any black youngster." Jones taught thousands of students, like Chita Rivera, who went on to have great success.

Bill Kirschner, 87, ski manufacturer, in Seattle. Working in his father's shed on Vashon Island, Washington, Kirschner developed a process of coating wood with fiberglass to make better skis. His family tested prototypes on nearby slopes. The first K2s hit the market in 1964 and within a decade the signature red, white, and blue skis were being worn by champion skiers. Kirschner sold the company in 1970, but he led a group of investors that bought it back six years later; he served as chairman until his retirement in 1982. Until the end of his life, he remained a constant tinkerer, working even recently on an idea to improve bicycle gears.

Sir Freddie Laker, 83, aviation pioneer, in Miami. Laker revolutionized the airline industry when he introduced low-cost transatlantic flights. Though Laker Airways went under in 1982, its influence in terms of branding and pricing lives on in the success of Laker's protégé, Richard Branson, who christened one of the first planes in Virgin's fleet the Spirit of Sir Freddie.

George Millay, 76, theme park founder, in San Diego. Millay co-founded SeaWorld in San Diego in 1964, and the following year he introduced the world to the park's most famous star, Shamu, the killer whale. A decade later, after a falling-out with the company's board of directors, Millay left SeaWorld and opened the first Wet 'n Wild water park in Orlando. Under his leadership, Wet 'n Wild expanded to seven locations. Millay and his partners sold the water parks in 1998 for an estimated $77 million.

Raymond Noorda, 82, computer pioneer, in Orem, Utah. Known as the Father of Network Computing, Noorda was a founder of Novell (NASDAQ:NOVL), and he served as president and CEO of the company from 1983 through 1995. Under his leadership, Novell emerged as a software powerhouse and grew from 17 employees to more than 12,000 at its peak. Noorda is credited with coining the term "coopetition," the concept by which rivals work together to create a larger overall market for their products. He also founded the Canopy Group, a VC firm that invested in more than 100 start-ups.

Hubert J.P. Schoemaker, 55, biotechnology pioneer, in Paoli, Pennsylvania. In 1979, the Dutch-born Schoemaker co-founded Centocor, a Philadelphia biotechnology company whose original focus was diagnostic work. The business almost folded in the early 1990s before it developed a drug called Remicade, which treats Crohn's disease. After Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) acquired Centocor for $4.9 billion in 1999, Schoemaker launched Neuronyx, a stem-cell research company. But he is perhaps best remembered for nurturing a number of early-stage companies, and for founding and serving on the boards of technology councils and industry groups. "He mentored an awful lot of us in the industry, and he was the driving force for a lot of companies," says Dennis Flynn, president of Pennsylvania Bio, a group that represents Pennsylvania's bioscience community. Though Schoemaker was diagnosed in 1994 with a form of brain cancer that is usually rapidly fatal, he maintained a busy work schedule for more than a decade.

William Schultz, 80, chairman of Fender Musical Instruments, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Often cited as Fender's savior, Schultz led a leveraged buyout of the iconic Scottsdale-based guitar manufacturer in 1985. He revived the company by stressing research and development and quality manufacturing, securing a future for Fender's legendary Stratocaster, which was once the guitar of choice for musicians ranging from Buddy Holly and Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy. Schultz never learned how to play the guitar himself.

Eli Segal, 63, publishing entrepreneur, in Boston. Segal made a fortune running Games magazine and a number of related game, craft, and puzzle companies in Boston. In the early 1990s, he parlayed business success into a powerful political and civic career. He served as chief of staff for Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, providing the management backbone for a team that included James Carville and George Stephanopolis. After the election, rather than seeking a cabinet post, Segal took lower profile jobs, launching AmeriCorps, a federal volunteer organization, and later running Clinton's Welfare to Work Partnership. "He impressed upon me the notion of doing good and doing well," says Segal's son, Jonathan, who founded a magazine for high school athletes. "Companies can look out for the bottom line as well as looking out for what's good for the community and the world around it--these goals are not mutually exclusive."

Esther Snyder, 86, co-founder of In-N-Out Burger. In 1948, Snyder and her husband, Harry, launched the phenomenally popular West Coast chain--one of the first businesses to offer drive-through service. Harry managed day-to-day operations for the Irvine, California-based company, while she kept the company's books. Upon Harry's death in 1976, the couple's sons took over the chain. When both sons died tragically in the 1990s, Snyder reassumed control of the business at the age of 79. Even though a family fight over control of the company intensified this year, In-N-Out's reputation for quality and profitability remains unmatched in the industry.

Burt Kerr Todd, 81, founder of import-export business Kerr-Hays, in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. Whether it was selling Rolls-Royces to foreign royalty or trying to start his own country on a reef near New Zealand, Todd was always up to something extraordinary. During one phase, he marketed stamps made from silk, scratch-and-sniff stamps, even "talking stamps" that could be played on a record player. He also introduced postage to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Collectors took to the Bhutanese stamps and the revenue they produced was a windfall for the tiny nation, and a tidy sum for Todd (pictured with his wife, Susie, in Bhutan in 1951). "He caught the imagination and fancy of so many people, he made business fun," says Todd's daughter Frances Todd Stewart. "He defined the word 'entrepreneur."

Last updated: Dec 1, 2006




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