Mark Butler, founder and CEO of Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Holdings Inc., died Sunday, according to company officials.
The 61-year-old passed away unexpectedly while spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with his family.
The board of directors on Monday named John Swygert as interim president and CEO of the company. Swygert has served as executive vice president and COO since January 2018 and previously served as Ollie’s CFO beginning in 2004.
Butler rose to prominence in the Central Pennsylvania business scene by building a multi-billion dollar company based in Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin County, that focuses on providing deep discounts on goods to its customers and selling it with a memorable motto: “Good stuff cheap!”
“Mark was an exceptional entrepreneur, merchant, leader, philanthropist, friend and family man,” said Ollie’s board member Richard Zannino. “From ringing the first sale in the first Ollie’s store in Mechanicsburg 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 joined with co-founders Mort Bernstein, Harry Coverman and Oliver “Ollie” Rosenberg to open the chain that sells excess brand-named items and inventories.
Besides his work with Ollie’s, Butler was also a lifelong sports fan. He was currently serving as chairman of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, a non-profit organization creating opportunities for youth in need through baseball. He worked with the Ripken Foundation to fund and build a baseball field at the Boys and Girls Club in Harrisburg in 2013.
Cal Ripken Jr., the National Baseball Hall of Fame member of the Baltimore Orioles and founder of the Ripken Foundation, called Butler a “friend” and a “mentor” through a statement.
“(Butler) cared deeply about his community and brought passion and caring to everything he did,” Ripken said. “The entire team at the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation is devastated by the news of his passing and our thoughts are with his family and those closest to him. His contributions to so many causes, including ours, will be a significant part of his enduring legacy. To say that Mark will be dearly missed doesn’t nearly capture the magnitude that his life has had on so many.”
Butler took over as principal owner of the Harrisburg Senators minor league baseball team in February 2015. He was known for spending time in the crowd talking with attendees of games at FNB Field, and his own Mark L. Butler Foundation donated tickets and baseball experiences to inner-city organizations so local residents could go to the games.
Representatives from the Senators said they were “heartbroken and deeply saddened” by the news of Butler’s death.
“We are just numb,” said Kevin Kulp, president of the Senators. “This is a tragic loss for our community. Mark was such an important part of the culture of our organization. We were extremely fortunate to have had him guiding us. We’ve lost a great boss and a great friend. We’re committed to continuing on in his memory just the way he would have wanted – with passion and integrity.”
This is a developing story.
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