Edwin "Skip" Gage, a former president and CEO of the Carlson Companies who quit in 1991 to build his own integrated marketing company, died Wednesday April 26 2020 surrounded by family. He was 79.
Gage will be remembered as a generous philanthropist and a brilliant and methodical executive who grew both the Carlson Companies and Gage Marketing Group into national leaders in their fields through strategic acquisitions and internal development.
Gage, a native of Evanston, Ill., turned his passion for tennis into a full scholarship at Northwestern University, where he met Barbara Carlson — the younger of Minneapolis entrepreneur Curtis Carlson's two daughters — on a blind date. More than 700 people attended their wedding in Minneapolis in 1965.
Gage graduated with a bachelor's degree in business and a master's from the journalism school's advertising sequence. He was hired as an account executive with the Foote, Cone & Belding agency in Chicago. Partly because Carlson wanted his daughter and son-in-law closer to home, Gage joined the Carlson Companies in 1968 as director of marketing, development and research. He started with no staff but by 1976 had assembled a group of sales-promotion and employee-incentive businesses with $50 million in revenue.
In February 1980, he was named president of Carlson Marketing Group Inc., which he aggressively expanded. In 1983, he ascended to executive vice president, setting him up to succeed Carlson as president a year later and as CEO in 1989. Carlson couldn't let go of power, though, and the two men butted heads.
Gage wanted to run his own shop. He resigned in 1991 and bought three companies from Carlson: Promotion Management Co., Lettershop Services and Adistra Corp. He set aggressive growth goals and focused on integrated marketing.
A trade journal described Gage Marketing in 1998 as the nation's largest sales promotion firm, based on revenue. Gage sold part of the company in 1998 for $80 million.
In retirement, Gage served as chair and chair emeritus of the Inner City Tennis Foundation. He and his wife, Barbara Carlson Gage, also helped serve the community by supporting the Northside Achievement Zone, Urban Ventures and Banyan Community.
Gage is survived by his wife and their children, Geoffrey, Scott, Christy and Richard, and 10 grandchildren.
* Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of GAGE Marketing Group, L.L.C., an integrated marketing services company, since 1991. * Elected a director of SUPERVALU in 1986.more » « less