Jack Pitney, head of marketing for BMW of North America, was killed in an accident Thursday while vacationing on his farm.
His death, at age 47, came six days before he was scheduled to become vice president for BMW's eastern region, the automaker's largest U.S. sales zone. BMW said in a statement that it couldn't immediately provide details.
Pitney joined BMW in 1995 as head of corporate communications. His big break came when he was part of a small team of executives who persuaded a wary BMW management team to import the Mini to North America. He led the Mini brand as its first U.S. chief from 2001 to 2005.
When his appointment to the regional post move was announced in July, Pitney said he was ready to take on the challenge of working with BMW dealers, who have been pinched by the factory's cuts in margin and other payments.
“He was very influential in getting the Mini brand launched in this country,” recalls Russell Stover, general manager of BMW of Nashville and Mini of Nashville in Tennessee. "He had the right personality for it -- funny and fun in spirit, but also very serious about getting it done right."
Stover also said Pitney, as marketing vice president for BMW, "brought calm and stability" in the brand's response to the recession. "We didn't panic, and I think we should be thankful Jack was in there" during that time.
Pitney was considered a candidate to one day become head of BMW of North America.
When asked by Automotive News in July if he was being groomed for the CEO job, Pitney laughed and said: “We all rotate on a regular basis. You could argue everyone is being groomed for anything.”
Before joining BMW, Pitney was manager of corporate communications for Mazda Motor of America.
He previously served as vice president at Hill and Knowlton's Los Angeles office, where he headed the Mazda account, and as vice president at GCI Group/Los Angeles, where he oversaw the launch of Infiniti, Nissan Motor Co.'s luxury brand.
Pitney, a native of Stamford, Connecticut, began his public relations career in New York City, where he worked with several public relations and marketing agencies.
He began his career in the advertising department at a local newspaper in Brooklyn, New York. Pitney earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Occidental College.
Lindsay Chappell and Diana T. Kurylko contributed to this report.