CHICAGO -- R. Roydon (Roy) Ricks, president and COO of Hartmarx's Trans-Apparel Group, and two company pilots were killed Thursday night when a Hartmarx-owned twin-engine plane rolled off a runway and into Lake Michigan as it attempted to take off from Miegs Field in Chicago.
Ricks, 55, headed the Hartmarx division since 1991. Trans-Apparel Group, based in Michigan City, Ind., encompasses Hartmarx's Sansabelt, Hart Schaffner & Marx sportswear and dress furnishings, Tommy Hilfiger trousers, Nicklaus golfwear and Jack Nicklaus blazers and slacks lines.
Ricks had been headed home to Granger, Ind., following a day of meetings at Hartmarx's headquarters here.
The small King Air 200 turboprop went into the lake around 8:15 p.m., also killing executive pilots Marc Derickson and John Powell, both Trans-Apparel employees and residents of Michigan City, Ind. Airport officials said it was not clear whether the plane, scheduled to land in South Bend, Ind., ever became airborne.
'On behalf of Hartmarx, we offer our deepest condolences to the families of these three men,' E.O. (Bert) Hand, Hartmarx chairman and CEO, and Homi Patel, company president and COO, said jointly in a written statement. 'We mourn the sudden and tragic loss of our dear friends and colleagues.'
U.S. Coast Guard, Chicago Fire Department and recovery crews worked into the night trying to recover the plan and its passengers and eventually used a crane attached to a barge Friday morning to retrieve wreckage from a water depth of 22 feet.
At a Friday afternoon press conference shortly after the fuselage and one engine of the plane had been recovered from Lake Michigan, Dave Bowling, an NTSB investigator, said Ricks had been found in the passenger compartment and that the two pilots were strapped in their seats. Miegs Field is a single-runway airport near Chicago's Loop.
'It doesn't seem the plane had enough power to get into the air, so we will be looking at the engines in particular,' he said.
Bowling said NTSB officials had already listened to tapes from the Meigs tower, and there were no distress calls. The airplane, he said, 'might have a cockpit voice recorder' and, if so, it would be in the recovered tail section and be shipped to Washington D.C. for analysis.
'We have pretty much ruled out weather' as a cause for the accident, since it was a calm, clear night, Bowling said, but 'there are still pilot and airplane issues to deal with.'
Men's wear executives were shocked and saddened by the news. Trans-Apparel closed its offices Friday in Chicago and in New York City.
'Roy was creative, always ready for change and solving problems with a smile,' Patel told DNR in a phone interview Friday afternoon. 'Nothing made him down and despondent. He had an incredible taste level. He was enthusiastic, no matter what the issues or challenges he faced.'
Ricks spent nearly 20 years at the Chicago-based apparel company, beginning in 1980 as vice-president, sales, for Gleneagles, a former Hartmarx division of better sportswear, rainwear and outercoats.
He was promoted to senior vice-president, marketing, for the division in 1982. When the brand become integrated into Hart Schaffner & Marx clothes division, he was named executive vice-president and brand manager.
In 1990, he was promoted to both president of Gleneagles and executive vice-president of Hart Schaffner & Marx, overseeing the company's Henry Grethel Apparel and American Apparel Brands. A year later, Ricks was picked to head Trans-Apparel.
'Roy was a great merchant and friend of our company,' said Ken Walter, Sears' vice-president and GMM of men's apparel. 'He was a very solid businessman with high ethical standards.'
Because of Trans-Apparel's size, Ricks came in contact with an array of business leaders. Patel said Ricks' love of golf was vital in doing business when Hartmarx picked up the Nicklaus lines in the late '80s.
'Roy loved to golf with his family and his friends,' said Patel. 'He had a passion for the sport. He understood it well and knew its history.'
Jack Nicklaus relayed condolences.
'Roy is responsible for the success we achieved with the Nicklaus brand in the United States,' Nicklaus said through a spokesman. 'He was tireless in trying to make the business work and gave everything he could. Technically he was a business partner, but more importantly he was a friend, an extended family member of the Golden Bear and Nicklaus family. We could never have asked for a better partner.'
Ricks is survived by his wife, Nancy, and his children, Amy, 30; Alison, 28; and David, 23. At presstime, funeral services had not been made public.