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Quadracci, 66, Found Dead In Lake

September 2002
CHENEQUA, WI--Harry V. Quadracci, 66, who grew Pewaukee, WI-based Quad/Graphics from a startup company, funded by taking out a second mortgage on his home, into the largest privately held commercial printer in the United States, died July 29.

Mr. Quadracci's body was found approximately 3 p.m. that day in about four and a half feet of water in Pine Lake near his home here, according to Chenequa Police. His family contacted the police around 12:30 p.m. and reported Mr. Quadracci missing.

The cause of death is under investigation, according to Robert Douglas, chief of police. An autopsy by the Waukesha County Medical Examiners Office concluded he died from an accidental drowning.

It was the second time in less than a month that tragedy had struck the Quad/Graphics organization. A 10-story warehouse caught fire and collapsed July 12, taking the life of an employee from a contracted cleaning service.

Deeply Missed

Quad/Graphics issued a statement through the Chenequa Police Department that read: "As you can imagine, this is a very sad day for the Quadracci family. Our first priority is to respect their privacy and assist them in any way we can. Mr. Quadracci will be deeply missed by everyone who knew him, including employees, the many customers with whom he had close relationships, the entire printing industry, the Wisconsin business community and the many communities where the company operates."

Mr. Quadracci opened Quad/ Graphics in 1971 with just 11 employees, a leased press and a loaner binder in a 20,000-square-foot facility in Pewaukee. Over time, the company grew to become the largest privately held commercial printer in the United States, with 10,000 employees at 35 facilities generating $1.8 billion in annual sales.

Along the way, Mr. Quadracci earned a sterling reputation as a stout businessman who could calculate moves and ideas ahead of the curve, as well as as a principled man whose ideals and ethics left a lasting impression on the culture of the company and its employees.

"No one, in my view, has impacted and contributed more to the printing industry than Harry Quadracci," stated Tom Basore, executive director of the Web Offset Association, who learned of the news while on business in Mexico. "For a company to grow from a zero base to $1.8 billion in 32 years—it's a feat that will never be equaled in this industry.

"It's a very sad day for the printing industry and a major loss."

Angelo Rivello, senior vice president of manufacturing and distribution for Newsweek, recalled how Mr. Quadracci came to the publication's rescue in 1975 during the midst of a gasoline shortage and labor strike. The company signed a contract to print Newsweek, making the venerable current events publication its first marquee client.

Rivello also knew and worked with Mr. Quadracci's father, the late Harry R. Quadracci—a trail blazer in the early days of web offset printing.

"I feel like I've lost more than a friend. He's been like both a father and a brother to me," Rivello said. "There is no one I can look to in the industry who's left a bigger imprint than Harry Quadracci.

"Along the way, he made many people successful in this business. He just believed in the American way. That's what building a business is all about."

The printing industry, he added, has lost a great man—"the greatest man, in my opinion."

Harris DeWese of Compass Capital Partners, who first met Mr. Quadracci in the early 1980s, noted the owner was a business mastermind. "Harry Quadracci set a standard for excellence in leadership, strategic thinking and management that, in my mind, is unprecedented in our industry," DeWese said. "He leaves a legacy of accomplishments that should provide guidelines for every manager in our industry."

Ken Field, president and CEO of Continental Web Press, Itasca, IL, remembers swapping "some crude technology" information in the early 1970s, as their respective companies were still in their nascency.

"Harry was someone I could call for advice and opinions," Field said.

"We've lost a leader in our industry. No one can fill his shoes and take his place. He had such great insight...he saw the industry differently than anyone else over the last 25 years.

"He's going to be missed."

A native of Racine, WI, Mr. Quadracci graduated with a B.A. from Regis College in 1957 and a juris doctor from Columbia University School of Law in 1960. That led to a stint practicing and teaching law in New York City.

He returned to Milwaukee to follow his father into the commercial printing industry, serving in several capacities with W.A. Krueger Co. He resigned from the company in 1970 to start Quad/Graphics.

As Quad grew, so did Mr. Quadracci's prominence. He was given the inaugural Vision Award by the WOA for his forward-thinking leadership in 1999. The Wisconsin Direct Marketing Association named Mr. Quadracci its Direct Marketer of the Year that same year. In 1997, he was named Wisconsin's Master Entrepreneur of the Year.


Mr. Quadracci was also active in many industry associations and educational institutions. He served on the board of the DMA, the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation, the Gravure Catalog & Insert Council, the Marquette University Business Advisory Board and the Columbia University Law School Board of Visitors. He was also a member of the Graphic Communications Association, the Magazine Publisher's Association, the World Presidents Organization and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Business Advisory Committee.

In 1986, Harry V. Quadracci was inducted into the Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame for his contributions to the graphic arts industry. His father, Harry R., received the award in 1998.

Mr. Quadracci is survived by his wife, Betty, publisher of Milwaukee Magazine; four children, Richard, Joel, Kathryn and Elizabeth; and two brothers, Tom and Leonard.

Richard is owner of Quadracci Engineering while Joel and Elizabeth are in sales and marketing with Quad/Graphics. Tom, formerly executive vice president for Quad, has been named president and CEO. Leonard is president of Quad/Med, an affiliate that manages employee health.


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