NEW YORK — George Horowitz, the affable and innovative chairman and chief executive officer of iconic boxing brand Everlast Worldwide, died in his Manhattan home late Monday after a battle with kidney cancer. He was 55.
Horowitz was known as much for his lively personality and a lifelong passion for boxing as for his business acumen. Since his company acquired Everlast in 2000, the brand has become a global powerhouse with a slew of licensed product categories and distribution deals around the globe. Everlast had enhanced its women’s business lately, striking a licensing deal with Jacques Moret for women’s apparel and forming a partnership with designer Norma Kamali.
Horowitz’s son, Seth, recently named president and chief operating officer, now will also assume the roles of ceo and chairman. His daughter, Robin, is a licensing executive at the firm.
Born in Brooklyn on March 22, 1950, Horowitz was a high school history teacher before entering the garment industry in 1976 as vice president of operations at Golden Touch Imports Inc. He later started his own firm, Active Apparel Group, and began his relationship with Everlast in 1992 when AAG launched women’s activewear under the Everlast trademark.
In 2000, AAG, a public company, acquired Everlast in a deal valued at $60 million and the name of the firm was changed to Everlast Worldwide. Horowitz is credited with revitalizing the brand over the last five years.
Friends and colleagues remembered Horowitz’s generosity and upbeat spirit, as well as his disciplined approach to running the company.
“He was a real boost to the sport of boxing at a time when it really needed some help,” said Bruce Silverglade, owner of Gleason’s Gym, who worked closely with Horowitz and Everlast. “He loved watching fights and working with the boxers. He was receptive to new ideas and rejuvenated the brand.”
Maria Stefan, former executive director of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, collaborated for many years with Horowitz on various projects and committees.
“He was a very generous individual with both his time and his knowledge,” said Stefan.
“He participated both in terms of time and dollars to industry projects ranging from fashion shows to promoting physical activity in schools. He was certainly one of the best strategic thinkers in the industry in terms of marketing and merchandising his product. This is a devastating loss to the industry.”
Bob Stevenish, president and chief operating officer of Modell’s Sporting Goods, said Everlast has become one of a small group of key strategic partners the company works closely with to grow their business. Everlast also makes some exclusive products for Modell’s.
“We have had [growth in the] double digits with Everlast over the last five years,” he said. “They have done exciting things with the brand by sponsoring top boxers and working with boxing organizations. He did a fantastic job building the brand.”
The brand’s gloves and equipment have been worn by Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, and Horowitz also got a new generation of boxers to start wearing the brand again in recent years, Silverglade and others noted.
Horowitz at times had to make difficult decisions. Under his direction, Everlast moved out of its longtime production facility in the Bronx in 2003 to another facility in Moberly, Mo.
Kathy Knowles, business manager at Invista Activewear, said Horowitz was a great manager who was decisive but also open-minded. “George was always honest, open and had a great passion for what he did. He will be missed by the entire industry.”
Licensing the women’s business to Jacques Moret earlier this year was another major development, since that product category had been made in-house since its launch in 1997. In recent seasons, the women’s line has been punched up with new colors and more fashionable silhouettes.
Joey Harary, president of Jacques Moret, said he was impressed with the way Horowitz evolved the company. The two had been competitors and sometimes used the same factories before joining forces earlier this year.
“We have worked closely together to build the women’s business and we have gotten very close with the family,” Harary said. “George was very much a family man.”
The company’s new product categories include fragrance, watches and energy bars, and Everlast also signed a partnership with Gleason’s to begin opening cobranded gyms. Everlast now has 60 licensing deals in total. The company earlier this year also began sponsoring the reality show “The Contender,” which chronicled the development of up-and-coming boxers.
Horowitz, who was a frequent contributor to shows such as CNBC’s “Squawk Box” and CNN’s “Business Day,” was also active in charitable organizations and other groups, including the American Heart Association and the International Radio & Television Society Foundation and SGMA.
In addition to his son and daughter, Horowitz is survived by his wife, Renee; his mother, Libby, and three sisters, Ruby Edelman, Jackie Posner and Linda Mandel-Maczko.
Memorial services will be Monday at 10 a.m. at Temple Emanu-El, 1 East 65th St. at Fifth Avenue, in Manhattan.
Donations in Horowitz’s name can be made to the Sloan-Kettering Foundation or the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, P.O. Box 140998, Staten Island, N.Y., 10314.