Homer I. Altice, 64, distributor for Fila, Ellesse

June 29, 1998|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Homer I. Altice might not be a household name, but the Fila footwear he brought to the United States has become a well-known brand worn by top athletes such as Detroit Pistons basketball forward Grant Hill.

Mr. Altice began a mom-and-pop operation distributing Fila athletic shoes for the first time in this country from the kitchen of his home near Hunt Valley in 1983. After nearly going bankrupt a year later, his humble company, initially called H. Altice Marketing Inc., blossomed into a multimillion-dollar international venture with its U.S. headquarters in Sparks.

Mr. Altice, who left the company in 1991, died of cancer Wednesday at home in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 64.

After selling his license back to Fila and moving to Florida in 1991, Mr. Altice, who had lived in Ruxton for seven years, became a distributor for Ellesse, an apparel company. He retired last year.

"He was a very skilled marketer," said Mr. Altice's son-in-law, M. David LeBrun of Sparks. "He was responsible for creating a major employer for Baltimore."

After Mr. Altice negotiated a lease agreement with Fila SpA of Italy to sell athletic shoes in this country, he had the difficult task of promoting a new shoe brand, Mr. LeBrun said. At the time, Fila was known here for its apparel.

"It was his idea to buy the license from Fila in Italy to sell footwear in this country," said Howe Burch, senior vice president of advertising and communications for Fila USA. "Under his management, that company really established a position in this country as a serious player."

Former colleague Alberto Verdi of Baltimore remembers Mr. Altice as a "great entrepreneur. He contributed a lot to Fila's success in the United States."

Mr. Verdi, who is executive vice president of apparel for Fila, said he and Mr. Altice worked on developing products for the company. "He was very charismatic, very generous, very likable."

In 1986, Mr. Altice was named Maryland's Small-Business Person of the Year.

Born and raised in Williamson, W. Va., he earlier held railroad jobs and worked as a traveling salesman for Carnation Inc. He joined Converse Inc., an athletic shoe company in Framingham, Mass., as a distribution manager in the mid-1970s and became its head of U.S. marketing.

Services were to be held at 3 p.m. today at Towson United Methodist Church, Hampton Lane and Dulaney Valley Road.

Survivors include his wife of 46 years, the former Carole J. Justice; three daughters, Elaine Saman and Rhonda Jackson, both of Boca Raton, and Marsha LeBrun of Sparks; two sisters, Lynette Helms of Raleigh, N.C., and Jessie Foit of Williamson; a brother, Harold I. Altice of Raleigh; and four grandchildren.

Pub Date: 6/29/98

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