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Linda Wachner

apparel industry executive
Born: 2/3/1946
Birthplace: New York City

As the CEO and chair of Warnaco Group, Inc. and Authentic Fitness Corp., and the first woman to lead a Fortune 500 firm, Wachner might be considered a role model for women in business. In fact, like many male executives who have turned around failing businesses, she is revered by stockholders and reviled by subordinates. She makes no bones about her aggressive management style, but then no one complains about the success of her companies, either. A diligent student, she graduated from high school at 16, then went on to SUNY Buffalo to study economics and business administration. She worked in a variety of apparel industry jobs, starting out as a buyer, and eventually moving to Warner, where within a year she had become the first woman vice president in the firm's 100 year history. She took over Warnaco in 1986 in a hostile takeover and has built the apparel maker into a $1.4 billion behemoth, responsible for manufacturing and distributing more than a third of all the bras sold in the U.S. But Warnaco's and with it, Wachner's, fortunes eventually declined. In June 2001 the company filed for bankruptcy and Wachner was fired in November of that year. She sued Warnaco for $25 million in severance, but settled for $452,000.

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