The Dallas Morning News
CEO led Neiman Marcus during growth period
Richard Cantrell Marcus, who as the last founding family member to run Dallas-based Neiman Marcus led the company at a time of a major expansion outside Texas, died Saturday at his home in Austin from complications associated with Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body dementia.
He was 84.
Marcus, the chairman and CEO from 1979 to 1988, was one of only three family members to be the retailer’s chief executive, succeeding his father, Stanley Marcus. The luxury retailer was founded in 1907 by Stanley Marcus’ father, Herbert Marcus Sr., and aunt Carrie Marcus Neiman, along with her husband, A.L. Neiman.
“Richard was a power, a great contributor and a sweet man in the world outside of Neiman Marcus,” said Morton H. Meyerson, a longtime friend and former EDS and Perot Systems CEO.
The Meyersons were in a couples group with Marcus and his wife, Susan Russell Marcus, and they took annual hiking trips together for over 20 years.
Leonard Lauder, son of the Estee Lauder founders, said Marcus did everything with class.
“Richard stepped into his father’s shoes and he did an equitable job,” Lauder said. “Everything he did was thoughtful and direct. There were no smoke and mirrors.”
Marcus’ daughter, Catherine Marcus Rose, speaking for her brother, Charles Marcus, said it was unusual for a father of his generation who also was a busy CEO to be “supportive, encouraging and respectful.”
“My brother and I are extremely grateful to have had a father who was as encouraging and involved in our lives as he was in spite of his very full commitments to Neiman Marcus when we were growing up,” Rose said. “We always felt that he was our No. 1 cheerleader, and I understand he treated his work associates at the store, and in other endeavors, in the same way.”
Former executive Billy Payton, who worked under both father and son and watched Marcus rise through the company, said Marcus cut his own path.
“He was a people person and a great leader who was always growing our executive talent and ran the company during our largest expansion years,” Payton said. “I spent a lot of years watching Richard, and being Stanley’s son was a great asset, but it was also his biggest challenge.”
Neiman Marcus had grown to 19 stores in nine states by the time Marcus stepped down a year after the business, which at that point was owned by Los Angeles-based Carter Hawley Hale Stores, was spun off as a public company. It was 60% owned by General Cinema.
His tenure overlapped the last of the great Fortnights, huge celebrity-attended annual events that included a society gala and filled the downtown store with fashion, art and food representing other countries. Fortnights exposed shoppers to other cultures at a time when people didn’t travel like they do now.
The Incircle loyalty program, which started during Marcus’ tenure, continues almost 40 years later.
“Incircle was truly the first retail rewards program of any kind, and those customers became the most important customers to the company,” said Karen Katz, the Neiman Marcus CEO from 2010 to 2018.
Marcus was supportive in her early roles at the company, she said, and he was always innovative in how he thought about the business. They continued to stay in touch and, over annual lunches, Katz said he offered “wonderful insights and had such a good sense of humor about the business.”
Marcus oversaw the luxury retailer’s first big catalog expansion with a 270,000-square-foot modern distribution and IT operation built in Las Colinas. He also kept the downtown Dallas store open as other department stores left in the 1980s.
He became a consultant and remained active in the retail industry. For more than 25 years, he was a senior adviser at Solomon Partners, previously known as PJ Solomon, an independent investment banking firm based in New York.
Marcus joined Irving-based Zale Corp.’s board when the jewelry retailer was exiting Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1993 and became chairman and remained on the board until 2004. Marcus was also on the board of Irvingbased arts and crafts retailer Michaels Stores at the time it was sold in a leveraged buyout in 2006.
In recent years, he lived in Austin. The past 10 years he was co-chairman of the board of The Contemporary Austin and worked with Breakthrough Central Texas.
Meyerson said he had gone to Austin four or five times in the last year to visit with Marcus as his Alzheimer’s progressed. “I wanted him to see me in person so he would remember.”
Marcus was born and raised in Dallas and went to Exeter in New Hampshire for high school. He joined Neiman Marcus in 1962 after graduating from Harvard University.
He was born on Oct. 2, 1938, to Stanley and Billie Marcus. He was preceded in death by his twin sister, Wendy Marcus Raymont, in 2019. Other survivors include his wife, Susan; sister Jerrie Marcus Smith of Dallas; grandsons Alex, Charlie and Jack Rose; granddaughter Sofia Lodato; and stepdaughters Cory Russell and Megan Russell.
Services are pending. The family requests that memorials be sent to The Contemporary Austin or Breakthrough Central Texas.