NEW YORK — Stuart Buchalter, the non-executive chairman of Warnaco Group Inc., died Tuesday afternoon at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York, according to the company.

Buchalter, 66, lived in California, but was traveling in New York on company business. The Warnaco board elected Charles R. Perrin as acting non-executive chairman following Buchalter’s death.

“We are tremendously grateful for the role [Buchalter] played, from our pre-bankruptcy days, through bankruptcy and the restructuring of the board,” said Perrin. “He was one of the few people who made enormous contributions to that process.”

Joe Gromek, the New York-based company’s president and chief executive officer, said, “I’ve known Stuart for just a little over a year and he was just a terrific gentleman, incredibly bright, energetic, dedicated, motivational and he was a great partner for me at Warnaco. On a personal note, he was very instrumental in my joining the business. He was a terrific human being. At this point, we’re still struggling with this whole event.”

Buchalter was of counsel with law firm Buchalter, Nemer, Fields & Younger. He also served as a director of City National Corp. and as chairman of the board of trustees of Otis College of Arts & Design. He joined Warnaco’s board in February 2000 and was elected non-executive chairman in November 2001.

He is survived by his wife, Gail, children Stephanie, Michael, Douglas and Melissa and two grandchildren. A funeral is to be held 10 a.m. Friday at University Synagogue at 11960 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Perrin, who is 58 and is the former chairman and ceo of Avon Products Inc., said the board had asked him to step in as interim chairman because there was “an obligation to our shareholders, our employees and our customers” to ensure continuity. “We will decide in due course what the succession plan will be” regarding a permanent chairman, he said.

Separately, Warnaco said Antonio C. Alvarez stepped down from its board on Monday. Alvarez is co-founder of turnaround firm Alvarez & Marsal Inc. and served as Warnaco’s ceo from November 2001 until April 2003, when he passed the reins to Gromek.

This story first appeared in the January 8, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Last month, A&M signed on to work on the turnaround of Levi Strauss & Co. Perrin said that after Alvarez began working with that firm, which is in some ways a competitor of Warnaco, stepping down from the board was the “ethical and professional” move.

Alvarez’s continuing involvement with Warnaco was not without controversy. In August, investor Daniel S. Loeb of Third Point Management Co. claimed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that Alvarez regarded Warnaco as a “honey pot.” Loeb acknowledged that Alvarez had played a key role in turning the firm around, but said Alvarez’s consulting fees of $750 an hour were excessive.

Alvarez’s seat was filled by Robert A. Bowman, who also serves as president and ceo of Major League Baseball Advanced Media.

Buchalter’s death and the other changes leave Warnaco with six directors. In addition to Perrin and Bowman, Gromek serves as the company’s sole executive director. The other three directors are David A. Bell, Richard Karl Goeltz and Sheila Hopkins.