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Louis Wiley Sr., 85; Headed Superba Inc., Family Necktie Firm

January 14, 2003|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Louis Wiley Sr., 85, who rose to head his grandfather's company, now the oldest continuous producer of men's ties and other neckwear in the country, and moved what has become Superba Inc. to Los Angeles, died Jan. 6. He died at his retirement home in Savannah, Ga., of unspecified causes.

Wiley was born in Rochester, N.Y., where his maternal grandfather, Herman C. Cohn, founded H.C. Cohn & Co. in 1873. Educated at private prep schools, Wiley became an Eagle Scout and attended the Boy Scout International Jamboree in Hungary in 1936.

After studies at Yale and New York University School of Business, he served as a Navy gunnery officer aboard a destroyer in the Pacific during World War II.

The family tie manufacturing company, which began marketing its products as Superba Cravats in 1908 and adopted that name formally in 1948, prided itself on its widespread sales staff, which marketed such innovations as the Dacron polyester tie beginning in 1951.

Wiley worked his way up through sales, based in Greensboro, N.C., and traveling through the south for two decades. He returned to Rochester in 1971 as vice president of sales and chairman of the board. In 1977, he added the titles of president and chief operating officer.

Two years later, after signing Mervyn Mandelbaum as president and chief executive, Wiley as chairman, with Mandelbaum's help, moved the company to Los Angeles.

Finding that production plants in Puerto Rico reduced labor costs but delayed delivery time, the two men established their factory in Los Angeles. Wiley retired in 1985, and Mandelbaum went on to add special designer lines like Tommy Hilfiger. Superba Inc. controls about 20% of the national market for neckties.

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Mickey Finn -- a bongo player with the 1970s glam rock band T Rex died Saturday in a South London Hospital. No cause of death was reported but Finn was known to have had kidney and liver problems. He was 56.

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