NEW YORK — Steve McCracken, the charismatic executive who’s been key in the development of DuPont’s Lycra spandex business for most of the past decade, is stepping down from his role as head of the company’s $6.3 billion Invista textile business.

This story first appeared in the January 23, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

DuPont said late Thursday that he would “be placed on a special assignment,” advising the textile business, until the sale of Invista to Wichita, Kan.-based Koch Industries Inc. closes. That $4.4 billion deal is expected to be consummated later this year.

“Steve has made a personal decision to pursue other interests outside the company once the deal is complete,” said a spokesman for Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont. McCracken had been named president and chief executive officer of the Invista unit in April.

The company said that senior vice president and chief financial officer Gary M. Pfeiffer will assume operating responsibility for the business until it is sold.

McCracken joined DuPont in 1976 and worked his way up through the ranks. After a stint managing the Corian countertops unit, he was named vice president and general manager of Lycra Worldwide in 1997.

That put him in the enviable position of running the firm’s most profitable fiber unit at a time when the polyester and nylon businesses were going into a severe downturn. Through the late Nineties and early years of this century, DuPont sought to lighten its portfolio by shedding underperforming fiber businesses — such as generic polyester — or spinning them into joint ventures.

McCracken was seen as the driving force behind the decision to merge the three fiber businesses into one unit, which was created as DuPont Apparel & Textile Sciences in October 2000, later becoming DuPont Textiles & Interiors and finally Invista.

The news that DuPont was seeking to sell its textile business emerged early last year, and for a time sources said that McCracken was trying to put together a deal to buy the business himself. McCracken later denied those rumors.

When DuPont and Koch reached a deal in early November, Koch officials that month indicated that they planned to merge their existing KoSa polyester business into Invista, creating a $9 billion company that would be the world’s largest fiber maker. Weeks later, Koch officials said that Jeff Walker, a 19-year veteran of the Wichita company, would become Invista’s chairman and ceo after the deal closed.

Koch had intended to make McCracken president and chief operating officer, the number-two job at the unit.

A Koch spokeswoman said the company was not ready to disclose how that post would be filled, but said the firm expected to announce more details on its plan for the management team in the near future.