Martin Stein, 58, Remembered As Industry Leader

April 1, 2010       Mark Hrywna      

Rich Leary has been at RMI Direct for 18 years and is still considered to be among the “newbies” at the direct marketing firm. “There’s really low turnover, people stay here a long time; it’s really because of Martin,” he said.

Martin is Martin Stein, the chief executive officer and co-founder of the Danbury, Conn.-based firm, who died March 8 at age 58 after a long battle with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. The lymphoma was the result of a reaction to anti-rejection medication Stein began taking after a kidney transplant from 13 years ago.

Leary said Stein “always made it a pleasant atmosphere, giving us the latitude to stake our claim, expand the RMI business, and he worked together with us on doing that and made it inclusive. That was just his personality.” It’s one of the reasons why so many employees have been with the company for more than 20 years. Leary, senior vice president of list management for RMI’s nonprofit division, described Stein as a benevolent boss and mentor, but also a loyal friend. “There was always that respect there but he was always very modest about it; I owe him a lot,” he said.

Stein treated each employee equally, whether it was a mailroom clerk or the president of a company, said Leary. “That was the type of guy he was. He led by example,” he said. Kelly Browning, executive vice president and CEO of the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) in Washington, D.C. met Stein in 1982, years before either was in their current positions. He described Stein as “a really outstanding friend, a leader in the direct marketing community and a visionary in the list area, who has built a really great business that employs a lot of really talented people serving the direct marketing industry.”

Said Browning: “It’s such a huge loss, I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet because he just did so many things so well. He had such great relationships with so many people. I feel like the community will just miss him terribly.” Stein resigned from Walter Karl Companies in 1985 with what he called a vision about how the direct marketing industry would be changing in coming years. He and John Forte formed RMI Direct Marketing. Forte later sold his share of the company to Stein, and since 1992 Stein has been CEO.

Stein was a former List Leaders board member and past recipient of the HVDMA (Hudson Valley Direct Marketing Association) Founder’s Award. He was a voting member of the Direct Marketing Association and a member of the DMA List Council, DMA Non Profit Federation, DMA of Washington, DMA Special Interest Council, and was on the Advisory Board for the DMA’s PAC Organization. Even in his personal life, Stein was involved in his community, raising money for cancer research and AIDS causes locally in Danbury, as well as those afflicted with cystic kidney disease, said Browning.

Stein served as a board member of the Charles Ives Center for the Performing Arts in Danbury and the Ridgewood Country Club. He participated in area walks and other fundraisers for the Polycystic Kidney Research Foundation. He volunteered on the fundraising committee for the Danbury Hospital Cancer Center, donated resources to the AIDS Project of Greater Danbury, and helped various local and school organizations. A man of many talents, Stein was also known for building a pumpkin-launching air cannon and a space ship out of a Subaru.

Browning and Stein met in 1982 and over the years, they did business together and developed a friendship, playing golf and going fishing. RMI has handled AICR’s brokerage and management activity for many years. He pointed to a photo gallery on the RMI’s Web site that serves as a tribute to Stein. “You just see some of the great examples of what a wonderful sense of humor he had, what a good relationship he had with the people he worked with and what a family and close-knit community they were,” Browning said. In writing on the firm’s Web site, employees wrote of Stein, “Martin’s door was always open. We knew we were welcome to walk into his office at any time, bounce ideas off him and get his advice. He earned our respect, admiration and devotion every day.”