Jon Epstein, president of Fila North America, died on Friday (February 15, 2019). He was 63-years old. Dealing for quite some time with ongoing heart-related health issues, he died in his home in St. Louis a week after undergoing a second round of heart surgery.
Epstein had two runs with Fila, first as CEO and president from 1998 to 2003 and then returning as North American president in 2007 after the brand had been sold by Sport Brands International Ltd. to its Korean licensee, Fila Korea.
Epstein is viewed as almost single-handedly bringing the brand back from the brink of bankruptcy in North America where he deftly balanced sales into large volume mid-tier and off-price retailers while steadily building the brand’s equity through streetwear label collaborations, an effort that led to relationships with increasingly more prestigious retailers. The strategy reached an apex in 2018 with a well-received partnership with Italian luxury label Fendi.
Under his leadership, the brand’s ’90s-era Disruptor II sneaker experienced a smashing come back and was selected as 2018 shoe of the year by Footwear News magazine.
Fila chairman Gene Yoon said in a statement, “In Jon Epstein, Fila has lost a great friend, leader and champion of the brand, not just in the U.S. but worldwide. His entrepreneurial spirit was a perfect match for our vision of growth, and his passion for both our heritage of authenticity and our potential as a brand innovator drove Fila’s resurgence over the past decade.
“Jon and I worked together for more than 30 years. He and his wife, Carol, have been like family to me. His presence in the Fila family and in my personal life is impossible to quantify. I have lost a trusted ally and lifelong friend.”
According to Footwear News, Jennifer Estabrook will step into his role, as personally recommended by Epstein, according to Yoon. A 14-year veteran with Fila, Estabrook is currently COO of Fila North America and manager of Fila Luxembourg.
Epstein was a sports company lifer and prior to Fila, he worked at Adidas America for 21 years culminating with a role as national sales manager. He graduated with a degree in business administration from Boston University, where he also played Division I soccer.
Epstein had a run in with the law in 2004 when he was sentenced to five years probation for a fraud case related to Just for Feet. He was charged and plead guilty to falsifying books and records to auditors that inflated the amount of money Fila owed to the now defunct retailer.
He is survived by his mother, Norma Fishman, and his wife, Carol Epstein.
Image via @filamxoficial