Printing magnate dies at 66

July 31, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

Quad/Graphics President Harry V. Quadracci, whose worldwide printing company employs more than 1,000 people in Berkeley County, W.Va., was found dead in a lake near his Wisconsin home Monday, authorities said.

Quadracci's body was discovered in 4 1/2 feet of water in Pine Lake Monday afternoon, almost three hours after his family reported him missing, according to the Chenequa (Wis.) Police Department. According to the Associated Press, the police chief said Quadracci was wearing swimming trunks.

On Tuesday, Waukesha County (Wis.) Medical Examiner Dr. Lynda Biedrzycki ruled that Quadracci, 66, died of an accidental drowning.

"I am distressed ...," said Jim Smith of Martinsburg, a Berkeley County commissioner when Quad/Graphics formally opened a plant there in 1997. "That's a great loss to us and our community."


Smith described Quadracci - who was also Quad/Graphics' chief executive officer - as a man of honesty, integrity and foresight.

Smith, Martinsburg attorney Clarence E. "CEM" Martin III and West Virginia's governor at the time, Gaston Caperton, were part of the West Virginia contingency that negotiated with brothers Harry and Tom Quadracci in a Chicago hotel about seven years ago.

The result was that Wisconsin-based Quad/Graphics agreed to build a Berkeley County plant.

Martin went on to represent Quad/Graphics. He said he got to know Harry Quadracci well and considered him a good friend.

"He was warm, caring, very dynamic - always thinking ahead about the next challenge ...," Martin said. "He was also very approachable. Everyone (at the printing plants) called him Harry."

In the latest Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans, Quadracci's net worth was estimated at $780 million, placing him in a tie for 333rd place - 48 spots ahead of Martha Stewart.

Yet, when Quadracci visited Quad/Graphics' plants, he didn't put himself above the workers, Martin and Smith said. For one thing, he wore the same uniform that employees wore.

"He talked about his employees like family and that's how he treated them," Smith said.

Several of Quadracci's relatives were involved in the company. His brother Tom, a co-founder, has stepped in as CEO.

Martin said Quadracci was devoted to running a clean operation that didn't hurt the environment. The company's Web site has a picture of Gruff, the company's environmental "spokesgoat," in a section about recycling.

Smith and Martin last saw Harry Quadracci at the Berkeley County plant in July 2000. The occasion was a lavish celebration for winning a contract to print 9 million issues of National Geographic a month.

Quadracci rode up to the building on a train, zipped around inside on a motorized cart and entered the party on an elephant.

Occasional zaniness was part of Quadracci's character. Martin said he was known for performing in front of his workers.

A Wall Street Journal Online article describes Quadracci's performance in the lead role of the company musical, "H.M.S. Printafour."

"Have you ever seen the CEO of a $2 billion company sing and dance?," he was quoted as saying. "That's the trouble with those stuffed shirts. You have to be a little corny."

Quadracci and 11 other people founded Quad/Graphics in 1971 with a rented press. By 2000, the company had annual sales of over $2 billion and more than 14,000 employees around the world.

In 1997, Quad/Graphics formally opened a $64 million, 439,000-square-foot production plant at Cumbo Yards Industrial Park, off W.Va. 9, between Martinsburg and Hedgesville.

Over the years, the company expanded the plant to 1.6 million square feet. A 289,000-square-foot addition is under construction, according to the company.

The plant started with 150 employees, but now has more than 1,000.

Two years ago, at the National Geographic celebration, Quadracci predicted that the work force would reach about 1,500.

Quad/Graphics prints Time, Newsweek, U.S. New and World Report, Sports Illustrated and other magazines.

At the Berkeley County plant, it prints National Geographic magazine, plus catalogs and retail circulars for such businesses as Kmart, Victoria's Secret, Chadwick's of Boston and Tupperware.

Earlier this month, a 10-story storage facility at the company's massive printing complex in Lomira, Wis., collapsed and caught fire, killing a cleaning service worker.

Some of the Lomira plant's work was shifted to Martinsburg, where workers are reprinting many of the destroyed materials that were ready to be sent to Lomira's finishing department for binding.

The Martinsburg plant will be in 24-hour production until the Lomira plant is back on schedule.

Company officials said Quadracci had worked day and night since the fire with little rest.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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