by Karen Alberg Grossman

MR magazine is saddened to report the passing of Mike Sampson, an exuberant fashion industry entrepreneur, salesman, and deal maker who loved bringing people together and making things happen. He died this past week of a heart attack at age 56.

Sampson graduated from Fairfield University with a degree in marketing; his positions in the industry included manager of the Joseph Abboud brand at Randa and exec positions at Block headwear, Business Journals, ENK, UBM, and most recently CMMNTHRD, E-Gen, and Tipser.

“We were saddened and shocked to hear about Mike,” says Massachusetts retailer Dana Katz at Miltons. “We worked closely with him and Ken Giddon on TestShop for our stores; Mike’s enthusiasm and tenacity were unparalleled in our industry. He was the consummate deal maker and we loved working with him; he knew how to perfectly balance work and fun. He will be sorely missed. Our hearts go out to his family: may his memory always be for a blessing.”

“Mike was my business partner, my friend, and my inspiration,” notes retailer Ken Giddon of Rothmans. “He was truly a legend in the industry, always thinking a step ahead with his creative vision. I’m not really sure when he slept because he seemed to get 30 hours of life out of every day. I already miss him terribly.”

Ardie Ulukaya of Jerry Kaye collection is devastated by the news. “Mike was one of the best guys in the industry, always with a positive attitude and smiles all around. He tried to do the right thing for everyone at all times. We all loved him; it made us happy just being around him. There’s no doubt that we lost one of our best. Rest in peace Mike: you will always be with us.”

Seth Steinberg at Modextil was shocked to learn of Mike’s passing. “Mike was an industry veteran, extremely hardworking, and a true visionary. I met him during my early years in the business when he worked at ENK. Mike had a Work Hard/Play Hard mentality. He loved his wife Julie, and was so proud of his two boys. He talked about retiring to enjoy boating on the Cape. He was certainly taken way too soon. Mike, you will be missed! Rest in peace, my friend.”

Edwina Kulego at Liberty Fairs was a long-time friend: “I had the pleasure of working with Mike for numerous years at UBM. We traveled the world together and shared many special moments on the road. Mike’s incredible dedication to his two sons was truly admirable. Although he was a hard-working business executive who worked tirelessly to advance our industry, his family came first and he made that clear. It feels surreal to be writing this farewell to my unforgettable friend. Rest well dear Mike.”

Close friend and colleague Spencer Singer also knew him well. “Mike had an energy and charisma that was hard to match. We worked closely together during my time at Project. He always looked out for me and was a real mentor when I first came on board. He introduced me to so many great people, some of who are now my dear friends. We shared a lot of fun times together. He really enjoyed life and made sure the ones around him enjoyed it even more. The two of us together could really work a room! I think back on our trips to Florence and the conversations we’d have after a long day at Pitti Uomo, obviously over a drink at the hotel bar. He loved his spots there: whether it was Gilli or Il Latini, when they saw Mike arrive, it was smiles all around. He impacted people everywhere. We shared the same love for bringing people together. He always put on a great event and worked hard for his clients. But most of all, Mike adored his boys Michael and Matthew and would always tell me of their accomplishments. And his love for his wife Julie was undeniable. This is such a loss to our men’s community. Mike was one of a kind and will be missed by so many. I will forever miss my colleague and friend.”

“Mike was someone whose professional and personal personas were almost identical,” explains Erik Ulin of NuOrder. “He was genuine in his relationships: more often than not, his clients would become close friends that he kept throughout his long career. I was fortunate to get to know him while working together at Project and we have stayed close ever since. Mike was someone I could turn to for advice, feedback or a laugh when we needed a break. He was also a great teacher and mentor to me. I’ve never met someone so good at the art of selling: he had a unique ability to connect with people, developing real and lasting relationships. You could always count on Mike to be there to support you in whatever way he possibly could. He was, and is, the epitome of a true and loyal friend.”

Elyse Kroll, entrepreneur and founder of ENK, is devastated. “I’m really mad and sad and there’s a hole in my heart. Mike Sampson was a dear friend and colleague: I spoke with him almost every day and had lunch with him just last week. I can’t process that this has happened… Mike was a well-liked, well-respected, and longstanding member of my ENK family. He quickly became my menswear soldier, always moving forward in men’s while developing expertise in other categories of fashion/technology. We remained in constant touch, sharing a deep passion for an industry we both loved. And then there was our friendship. Mike Sampson was one-of-a-kind. Forceful. Gentle. Smart. Persistent. And loyal. Words can’t explain how much I miss him…”

Charles Garone of Fashion Group International is also heartbroken. “Mike’s Instagram description speaks volumes: BULL IN A CHINA SHOP (with an explosion emoji next to it!) And in fact, when Mike and I worked together at ENK, it was often explosive. I had some of the biggest fights of my career with him but also the biggest laughs. He. Was. Hilarious. But the thing I’ll remember most is our long, serious talks about life, love, and family. Over drinks, of course. Mike is a person who could NEVER be forgotten; trade show aisles will be forever empty without his presence. My heart goes out to Julie, Michael, and Matthew.”

And from Sharifa Murdock at Liberty Fairs “To the Coach: Mike, you were the rock of this industry, keeping us grounded. Your passion and love will continue to inspire us all.”

The family asks for privacy at this difficult time; information about an industry-sponsored Celebration of Life for Mike will be announced when confirmed.


      1. He was a great friend and always loved by all who knew him. We always had great conversations and great laughs. A very special man


  2. Oh my God…. Mike …. I cannot process my life and our industry without you.
    I am honored that I carry some of your spirit you’ve shared with me over the many years in my heart and soul.
    I cannot fathom the magnitude/loss and sadness of Julie, Michael, and Matthew are feeling right now 💔😢
    Rest In Peace Gabba…
    You may be gone, but you’ll never be forgotten… 🙏

    1. I wish/hope Mike had some inkling of the impact he had on friends and colleagues. Many of us speed through life as if there is no end. But Mike lived life to the fullest both professionally and personally. He will be remembered by many for years to come for his life contributions.

  3. I can’t help but think of Julie, Michael, Matthew and my thoughts are with them at this moment Mike. As for you, well, sure you’ll be missed, but we know you’ll be there to meet us drink in hand when we reach you. R.I.P.

    1. This was such a shock to all of us. I had coffee with Mike on August 18th and he was in positive spirits as he always was. Mike was one of those people that everyone loved and I am so saddened by his passing. He loved his wife and family and was always excited to share that when we saw each other. You will be missed Mike.

  4. Mike was truly an amazing person. Filled of spirit, heart and truth. It was an honor to have worked so closely with him in my years at Advanstar/UBM. He took me under his wing and thought me all there was to know about the industry. Love you now and always Mike! My condolences goes out to Julie (love you), Michael and Matthew. Sleep In Peace My Friend. Gone too soon!

    Nikki and Tim Young

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