Hugh Patinkin, Whitehall Jewellers chairman and CEO

Hugh Patinkin, chairman and CEO of Whitehall Jewellers, died suddenly on Wednesday of an apparent heart attack, the Chicago-based company said in a statement. He was 54.

Whitehall’s board of directors named Daniel H. Levy, board director, as interim chairman and Lucinda (Cindy) M. Baier as interim CEO.

Levy issued the following statement: “It is with great sadness that I announce that, passed away suddenly this morning of an apparent heart attack. The entire Whitehall organization mourns this tragic loss, and our thoughts and prayers are with Hugh’s wife, Sheila Patinkin and his entire family. Hugh was both an exceptional leader and remarkable individual who demonstrated true passion for our business.”

Patinkin was the grandson and namesake of one of the company’s founders, Hugo Marks, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Marks’ uncle, Ben Roth, operated a jewelry store on State Street in Chicago’s Loop 100 years ago. Marks took over the store and, with his brother, Al Marks, reopened it as Marks Bros. Jewelers, the predecessor to Whitehall Jewellers.

Patinkin earned a law degree from the University of Chicago, and practiced law for about four years with Sidley Austin Brown & Wood before he joined his family’s jewelry business in 1979.

When Patinkin joined Whitehall, there were 10 stores and under his leadership the company grew to 384 stores in 38 states, the newspaper reports. The Company operates stores in regional and superregional shopping malls under the names Whitehall Co. Jewellers, Lundstrom Jewelers, and Marks Bros. Jewelers.

Patinkin is reportedly survived by his wife, Sheila; four children, Ben, Shannon, Josh and Max; brothers Mark, Douglas, Matthew and Nick, and his parents, Hal and June Patinkin.