Herman Komar, Former President, The Komar Co., Dies at 99

The executive helped build $500 million innerwear firm.

Herman Komar, co-chairman and former president of The Komar Co., the largest independent intimate apparel firm in the U.S., died Thursday at his home in Shrewsbury, N.J. He was 99.

This story first appeared in the December 1, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The cause of death was a stroke, said his son, Charles Komar, chief executive officer of the $500 million company, which is based in New York.

Herman Komar was born in Brooklyn and began working in the family business full time in 1930. The firm was founded with a $500 loan in 1908 by his father, Charles, a sewing machine operator who emigrated from Russia. It was called Charles Komar & Sons until 2004.

During the Depression, Herman Komar, who had been a lacrosse and football player at New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn, augmented his $50 a week salary for two years by playing professional football for the Perth Amboy Clovers. He was also a nationally ranked handball player.

Komar had a reputation for tenacity and favored a straightforward approach in business matters. He was fond of saying, “Treat everyone fairly but insist they also treat you fairly.”

He was president of the company from 1954 to 1985, and remained co-chairman until his death.

His son said that Komar was in a barbershop in 1968 when he overheard a conversation about a major competitor being for sale. Komar eventually acquired the Seamprufe Co., which more than doubled sales and production capacity and stood as a top achievement.

Charles Komar said his father had no tolerance for what he felt were questionable business practices.

“Herman Komar was a man of integrity,” his son said. “He was strong, compassionate, brave, caring and loving. Herman Komar was a good person. In fact, he was the best person I have ever known. He lived his life with high moral standards. He was fiercely loyal. He was competitive. He was compassionate. He was honest. He always did the right thing. He loved people. He cared, he helped, he counseled and he listened. He loved his family above all else.”

In addition to his son, Komar is survived by his daughters, Leah Komar Harris and Donna Laurie; a sister, Madeline Levin; a brother, Harold; eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. His first wife, Margaret, died in 1952. His second wife, Hermie, died in 1998.