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Gillette chairman dies of heart attack

BOSTON -- Colman Mockler Jr., the Gillette Co. executive who fended off two major takeover attempts of the personal care and consumer products giant in recent years, died Friday of an apparent heart attack, the company said. He was 61.

Mockler, who had been chairman and chief executive officer of the world's largest razor and blade maker since the mid-1970s, collapsed at the company's world headquarters in Boston, a spokeswoman said.

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Further details were not immediately available.

Under his leadership, Gillette more than doubled its worldwide sales from just under $1.5 billion in 1976 to $3.8 billion in 1989, the last year for which figures are available.

Earnings in the same period grew from less than $78 million to nearly $285 million.

In addition to razors and blades, which still account for most of the company's business, Gillette also produces Paper Mate pens, Oral-B toothbrushes, shampoos, deodorants and even stationery.

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Mockler, who had recently announced plans to retire, joined Gillette in 1957 as a staff assistant to the company's controller and moved steadily and often quickly up Gillette's corporate ladder.

He became treasurer in 1965, senior vice president for finance in 1968 and executive vice president in 1970. He joined the company's board of directors in 1971 and was elected president and chief operating officer three years later.

He took over as chief executive officer in 1975 and took on the chairman's title a year later.

Perhaps Mockler's biggest challenge was keeping Gillette independent.

He managed to fend off two expensive and lengthy hostile takeover attempts -- one by Revlon Group in 1986 and a second by Coniston Partners, a New York investor group, in 1988.

Gillette paid Revlon chief Ronald Perelman $549 million to halt the first attempt, a settlement widely branded as 'greenmail,' and spent $720 million to buy back 16 million of its own shares to foil the Coniston bid, which netted the pursuers an estimated $40 million.

Last year, Gillette was blocked by the Justice Department under federal antitrust laws from acquiring the U.S. operations of the European blade maker Wilkinson Sword.

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Mockler also found himself the focus last year of animals rights activists, who picketed his Wayland, Mass., home, charging Gillette's product testing subjected laboratory animals to unnecessary cruelty and pain.

The company later agreed to change its testing procedures, in line with such cosmetics companies as Avon Products Co. and Revlon, which were also targeted by animal rights groups.

In addition to heading Gillette, Mockler served on the boards of several other major Massachusetts corporations, including Bank of Boston, John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. and Raytheon Co., and was a former president of Harvard University's governing Board of Overseers.

Henry Rosovsky, Harvard's acting dean of arts and sciences, said he was 'geniunely shocked' at Mockler's death.

'It is so sad, especially when he had just announced his retirement. I and the entire Harvard community will miss him very much,' said Rosovsky.

Mockler is survived by his wife Joanna, two sons, Colman III and Andrew, and two daughters, Joanna and Emily.

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