Dick Baker, who built his career in the fashion industry at companies such as Esprit, Lacoste and Tommy Hilfiger but quickly became a major player in the sports-fashion sector when he moved to California and became CEO and President of the faltering heritage 1970s surf brand Ocean Pacific (OP) in February 1997, lost a two-year battle with cancer yesterday. He was 62.

Richard “Dick” Baker was born and raised in Southern California and a graduate of the University of California at Northridge. He worked his way through school at a men’s specialty store and is said to have launched his career in fashion at Bullocks, a division of Macy’s. He went on to become President of Marithe & Francois Girbaud (1980), CEO and President of Izod Lacoste (1983) and President of Esprit Womenswear (1986).

Following a brief stint as President of Tommy Hilfiger Womenswear, where Tommy Girl was launched and earned $100 million in its first year, Baker joined OP. By increasing its worldwide licensed business, spearheading the launch of the lines OP Classics and fashion-forward Seven2 and upping the brand’s advertising budget to $5 million, he increased OP’s sales to nearly $200 million by 2002. After Warnaco acquired OP for $40 million in 2004, Baker remained at the helm and continued to lead the brand. Iconix purchased it for $54 million in November 2006, moved its offices to New York City and later distributed it exclusively to Wal-Mart.

Baker left OP at the end of 2007. He remained a key name in the industry and served as President of the Surf Industries Manufacturers Association (SIMA) from 2000 to 2008. Baker also served on the Board of Trustees of the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles which awarded him with a Creative Lifestyle Award in 2000. He is expected to be honored by SIMA this August with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 20th Annual Waterman’s Ball.

He is survived by Una, his wife of 19 years, and two sons, Ryan and Jack.