John J. Whitacre, who became the only head of the Nordstrom clothing chain not from the founding family, died Nov. 18 of a heart attack, the Associated Press reported. He was 50.
Whitacre, who started the company's $300 million Internet catalog business, collapsed and died after working out on a rowing machine at a University of Washington training room. According to the report, he was an avid rower and former football player at the university.
The former shoe sales clerk was named Nordstrom's chief executive in 1997. Whitacre experienced early success and nearly doubled the size of the company. However, he resigned in August 2000 as earnings fell and a $40 million “Reinvent Yourself” campaign backfired, the AP reported.
He was replaced as chief executive by Blake W. Nordstrom, a grandson of company founder John W. Nordstrom, and as chairman by Bruce A. Nordstrom, Blake's father, a former co-chairman who came out of retirement.
Whitacre moved to London last year to manage Harrods department store. He returned to Seattle this year and, according to his wife Genevieve, was most recently working as a consultant and was involved in community service.