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Ollie's Bargain Outlet CEO Mark Butler Dies at 61

By Bill Mann - Dec 2, 2019 at 5:26PM

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The retailer's co-founder successfully bucked the online retail trend.

We are saddened at the news that one of The Motley Fool's favorite CEOs, Mark Butler, died suddenly on Dec. 1 while spending Thanksgiving weekend with his family. He was 61.

Butler, co-founder and longtime chief executive of Ollie's Bargain Outlet Holdings ( OLLI 3.13% ), was an iconoclastic entrepreneur. At a time when the rest of the retail world was pushing into the web, he guided Ollie's in the exact opposite direction, proudly noting that the company generated no revenue online. This operating strategy worked really well, for while other retailers fought out a zero-sum game online, Ollie's generated a fiercely loyal "Army" of customers who enjoyed the treasure hunt for extreme values in its self-described "semi-lovely stores." While many retailers have struggled, Ollie's revenues have doubled from 2015 to today, in no small part due to the strategic direction that Butler helped forge.

The Ollie's Bargain Outlet board of directors said in its press release that Butler was "an exceptional entrepreneur, merchant, leader, philanthropist, friend and family man. From ringing the first sale in the first Ollie's store in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1982, to leading the Company's highly profitable growth to 345 stores in 25 states, Mark built a successful and enduring retail concept, assembled an incredible team, created thousands of jobs and delivered millions of bargains to our customers, while delivering exceptional shareholder value along the way."

Butler was also chairman of the Cal Ripken, Sr. charitable foundation, which provides opportunities to at-risk youth, and he was the majority owner of the Harrisburg Senators minor league baseball team.

The Ollie's board of directors named Executive Vice President John Swygert as interim president and CEO. News of Butler's death sent Ollie's shares down nearly 10% in early morning trading today.

While this is certainly bad news for Ollie's and its shareholders, investors would be wise to patiently wait and see how things shake out. There is plenty of time to do so.

In the meantime, we would like to express our profound sympathy and condolences to our friends at Ollie's Bargain Outlet and the Butler family.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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