Bernard Lacoste dies in France

Bernard Lacoste, who spent more than 40 years at the helm of the Lacoste clothing empire best known for its crocodile-embossed polo shirts, has died, the company said Wednesday. He was 74.

Lacoste, who is widely credited with turning the family sportswear business into a major apparel company, died Tuesday in a Paris hospital, said company spokesman Philippe Lacoste, nephew of Bernard Lacoste.

The family did not provide the cause of death, saying only that Lacoste, who stepped down last year as president, had been suffering from a "serious illness" for more than a year.

Lacoste succeeded his father, tennis player Rene Lacoste, as president of the Paris-based clothing manufacturer in 1963. The company was founded in 1933. He presided over the international expansion of the group and added women's and accessory lines to the company's sporty look.

The Lacoste polo shirts adorned with the little crocodile insignia have for generations been the company staple, and its identifying mark is recognized around the world.

Lacoste, born in Paris on June 22, 1931 , handed over the reins of the company to his younger brother Michel, in September but remained "honorary president" until his death.

Lacoste is survived by his wife, Sachiko, and his three children from a first marriage, Beryl, Jacques and Camille.

No date was immediately set for funeral services, Philippe Lacoste said, reports the AP.

D.M.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team