Upper Deck co-founder and CEO Richard P. McWilliam died Saturday of unknown causes at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., the company announced on Monday.
The company has named Jason Masherah as president. He had been running the day-to-day operations of the company for the past year or so following McWilliam’s health issues battling heart disease and having open heart surgery in 2008. He was 59.
“Our entire company is heartbroken and grieving his death today,” said Masherah, who focused on the Upper Deck legacy in one of his statements.
“Richard was a thought leader and visionary in the trading card industry,” Masherah said. “It grew from a hobby for some baseball fans into a multi-billion dollar industry because of the multiple innovations that Upper Deck introduced under his leadership. He built a company that has weathered difficult times for the entire industry and is well positioned for future success.”
Upper Deck arrived on the baseball scene in 1989 with a higher-end approach to card-making with tamper-proof packaging, randomly sequenced packs and holograms that prevented counterfeiting of the cards. It added NHL, NBA and NFL licenses in the following years and helped usher in some of the hobby’s innovations such as certified autographs and game-used memorabilia cards on a widespread basis, though the company was not the first in some instances.