Carlo Lingiardi, the former footwear exec who helped build several key brands and persevered after a devastating 2005 bike accident, has died of coronavirus. He was 57.
“Carlo’s story is about his love for family, friends and the shoe business,” said Pat Hogan, a close friend and longtime footwear exec who is now EVP at Kizik.
Lingiardi, who hailed from Italy, began his career at W.L. Gore in his home country — and later headed the U.S. businesses of Geox and Tecnica before arriving at Teva as president in August 2005. He took the reins of the Deckers-owned brand under then-CEO Angel Martinez.
“Carlo was tenacious his whole entire life. He always figured out what he wanted to do and how to work toward that. He was loving, kind and determined,” said his wife, Michele.
Danny Wasserman, owner of Tip Top Shoes, recalled Lingiardi as a master brand builder who would do anything for his retail customers. “I remember how excited he was to move to California and work at Teva,” Wasserman said.
Tragedy struck when Lingiardi was just two months in at Teva. He was seriously injured in a bike accident in the Santa Barbara area — and it wasn’t known whether he would ever emerge from a coma. He did, but Lingiardi endured a traumatic brain injury and was paralyzed on the left side of his body. “He had this courage to keep fighting every single day,” said Hogan.
Lingiardi could no longer work, but he stayed connected to the industry, and those who knew him remembered him as brilliant, honest and loyal. While his career was cut short, the executive made a big impression in the footwear business.
“The industry loved him. He set the bar high for everyone else,” said Hogan, who was hired by Lingiardi at Geox in the early 2000s.
The pair often traveled to Italy together for work — and a little fun, too. “With Carlo, you really got to see Italy and all of its history,” Hogan said, remembering trips to Lingiardi’s parents’ home in Verona and nearby Lake Garda.
Dave Levy, the owner of Hawley Lane Shoes, also worked with Lingiardi at Geox, as a line builder for the U.S. market. The pair became close friends, and on the evening of Lingiardi’s accident, Levy learned of the situation and flew on a red-eye flight straight to California.
“I loved him so much. He was the best guy. He was one of the few friends who was always there. He always did the right thing for people,” Levy said. “[In the years that followed], whenever I would go visit, it would break my heart. He was bound to the wheelchair and would use one hand to be on the computer. He was absolutely brilliant. His thoughts were always there.”
Russ Curan, a former Geox colleague, said that even after his life-changing accident, Lingiardi had a great sense of humor. “He would make me and others laugh on many occasions. I know that must have brought him joy, and that’s what made him such an amazing person,” Curan said.
Hogan said Lingiardi — who had a PhD in political science — was a “true warrior” after the accident. “No one else would have lived through it. He chose to come back for the love of his family,” he said. “He was online looking for solutions for the last 15 years — from stem cell research to other possibilities to allow him to walk again.”
In addition to Michele, Lingiardi is survived by his mother, his sister and two children: daughter Giorgia and son Brent.
Friends have set up a Go Fund Me page to support Giorgia’s education in California. To donate, go here.