Gert Boyle, the gritty, longtime leader of Columbia Sportswear who helped establish the brand while crafting an indelible image of toughness for herself, died Sunday. She was 95.
She lead the company from 1970 to 1988 and inspired the “One Tough Mother” ad campaign in the 1980s which included an image of her flexing her arm with a “Born to nag” tattoo across it.
Boyle took over the small outdoor clothing company in 1970 after her husband Neal died from a heart attack. At the time, she was a 46-year-old housewife and mother of three with no real business experience.
Her father founded the “Columbia Hat Company” after fleeing Nazi Germany with his family and settling in Portland, The Oregonian reported.
Boyle’s husband took over the business in 1964. When he died, the business took many calls wondering if Columbia would close. The bank urged her to sell the company. She entertained an offer but after being nickel and dimed by a prospective buyer she said she’d rather run the company into the ground herself.
But Columbia grew under her leadership, and that of her son, Timothy.
Company sales were $600,000 in 1971. The company now sells products in more than 100 countries and had net sales of $2.47 billion in 2017, The Oregonian reported.
Boyle was the first woman inducted into the National Sporting Goods Hall of Fame. She was often recognized for her work as a female business leader, including having a book published on her experience.
She is survived by three children and five grandchildren.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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