Sy Sperling, Founder of Hair Club for Men, Dies at 78

Gabrielle Chung

Sy Sperling, the founder of Hair Club for Men, has passed away at the age of 78.

The entrepreneur — who is best known for appearing in the hair restoration company’s TV ads during the 1980s — died in Boca Raton, Florida on Wednesday after a lengthy illness, his publicist confirmed to PEOPLE.

“It is with great sadness that we can confirm the passing of Sy Sperling, the iconic founder of HairClub in 1976 and a pioneer in hair restoration,” the company said in a statement on Thursday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Sperling family.”

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“Colleagues, friends, and family recall Mr. Sperling as a visionary with an immense passion for business, innovation and helping others. We continue to live by his words ‘Live life to the fullest, take chances and risks, and believe in yourself.'”

Sperling initially created the business after “experiencing hair loss himself” and was “unhappy with the poor quality of available solutions,” according to the corporation’s website.

He appeared in the company’s first national television commercials in 1982, holding up his own before photos as a testament to hair restoration. In the adverts, he famously uttered the line, “I’m not just the HairClub president, I’m also a client.”

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Sperling expanded the business to include women in 1995, introducing customized female hair restoration solutions to meet their unique needs of experiencing hair loss.

In addition, he hosted his own radio show, How To Succeed in Business, on WSBR in Boca Raton and founded Hair Club for Kids, a non-profit that provides free hair restoration services to children under 18 who are receiving chemotherapy treatment.

The businessman was also an honorary chairman for City Relief, an organization that provides Meals on Wheels for the homeless.

In 2000, Sperling sold the company to a private equity firm and retired, splitting his time between Vancouver, Canada and Hillsboro Beach, Fla.

He is survived by his wife, Susan, daughter Shari Sperling, son Andrew Sperling and sister Rosalie Slute.