Dick Baker, longtime SIMA president and industry veteran, passed away this morning after a two-year battle with cancer. The Surf Industry Manufacturers Association released this statement in honor of Baker today, expressing their appreciation for all he did for the organization and the industry as a whole, and extending their deepest sympathies.

“The Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) is deeply saddened by this morning’s passing of its longtime president, leader and guiding light, Dick Baker, after his two-year battle with cancer. The SIMA Board of Directors, Advisory Boards and staff are devastated by the loss.

Baker was born and raised in Southern California and a graduate of the University of California at Northridge. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, he worked his way through school at a men’s specialty store.  The world of fashion continued as he began his career at Bullocks (a division of Federated, now Macys).  Becoming a buyer at a young age allowed international travel, invaluable retail experience and created a platform for future opportunities.

In 1980, Baker was recruited to become president of Marithe & Francois Girbaud, a designer jeans company and division of Calvin Klein, in New York.

In 1983, Dick was named CEO and president of Izod Lacoste menswear. Establishing a strategy to renew the popularity of the brand, he was a member of the management group that spun off Crystal Brands from the parent company General Mills.

In 1986, he was hired as president of Esprit Womenswear. Based in San Francisco, this lifestyle juniors brand grew to $250 million during his tenure.

Prior to joining Op in 1997, he was president of Tommy Hilfiger Womenswear, where Tommy Girl apparel was launched and grossed $100 million in its first year.

While at Op, through creative marketing, well-timed product extensions and licensing agreements with key manufacturers, revenues increased five-fold to $250 million world wide during his tenure as CEO.

After successfully rejuvenating the brand, Op was acquired by Warnaco Inc. (Calvin Klein, Speedo, Chaps) in 2004.  Baker continued to serve as President and helped in the transition of the business through 2007.

Baker became involved with SIMA in 2000 after coming to work for the iconic surf brand Ocean Pacific (Op), and served as president of SIMA for nine years. His presidency was instrumental in creating the vibrant trade association of Orange County based surf lifestyle brands, and he provided unfailing leadership and guidance throughout a time that has marked the association’s largest growth and expansion.

“Words cannot express our grief or how greatly Dick will be missed,” said Sean Smith, SIMA executive director. “Dick’s leadership in SIMA was absolutely unparalleled. I speak on behalf of the SIMA family and entire surf industry in saying he was so much more than our leader ­– he was our mentor, our best friend, a role model, a confidant. As a person he was generous, positive and a devoted family man. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”

Information regarding memorial services will be shared when available. Please contact the SIMA office with questions or inquiries.

SIMA Pays Tribute to Dick Baker

•  “It’s hard for me to think about Dick without cracking a smile. We are both fairly cynical by nature and would never miss an opportunity to light one another up with some sort of derogatory comment. Yet among all the heckling, he managed to teach me a lot. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from Dick was about courage, be it the courage of standing behind your convictions, the courage to think apart from the crowd, or the courage he had in fighting his insidious disease.”
– Doug Palladini, Vice President of Marketing, Vans / SIMA Board of Directors

“Dick’s passing leaves me with an empty feeling I cannot describe. This loss is not only personal to me, but to anyone who was fortunate enough to know this extraordinary man. Dick was a great husband and a father not only to his kids, but to the industry as a whole. A great leader, a great motivator, and one who knew exactly how to make someone feel good about themselves. He fought courageously to the end, life without Dick will never be the same.”
– Joel Cooper, CEO, …lost / SIMA Board of Directors

•  Longtime SIMA Vice President and close friend Paul Naude, CEO of Billabong USA, is out of the country and unreachable for direct comment, but it goes without saying that Paul is deeply saddened by the loss of his friend and colleague, and expresses sincere condolences to the Baker family.

•  “Dick Baker was a larger-than-life individual who advised and mentored every CEO in the surf industry, while making certain Wall Street knew about the beach. He was a true champion for our industry, as well as a dear personal friend.”
– Bob Mignogna, former publisher of Surfing magazine / SIMA Senior Advisory Board member

•  “Dick was a mix of father, brother and friend. I feel a bit like an orphan today. He will continue to live in the hearts of the ones that knew him. Gracias, Dick.”
– Fernando Aguerre, Liquid Tribe / SIMA Senior Advisory Board member

In spite of his busy career schedule, Baker remained active in community service, environmental and humanitarian organizations.  He actively supported local causes such as Life Rolls On, Boarding for Breast Cancer, Surfrider Foundation and Ocean Institute. He was the former Chairman of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (New York), and the 1996 honoree of the Boy Scout Council (New York).

Baker was also honored with the Creative Leadership Award by Otis College of Art and Design in 2000, where he served on its Board of Trustees; in 2004, he was honored by the Orange County Boy Scouts with the Men of Character Award; and in 2005, Baker was also the honoree for the AMY award of the YMA (Young Men’s Association) creating scholarships for the fashion industry. He will be honored by SIMA this August with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 20th Annual Waterman’s Ball.

Baker is survived by his wife of 19 years, Una, and his two sons, Ryan and Jack.”