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Founded bicycle maker Trek

Richard “Dick” Burke, the founder of bicycle maker Trek Bicycle Corp., died Monday at a Milwaukee hospital of complications from heart surgery, said his son, John, the company’s president. He was 73.

In 1976, Burke founded the company in a red barn in Waterloo, Wis.

Trek is known among cyclists for making the bikes that Lance Armstrong rode in his record seven consecutive Tour de France victories. Those models feature carbon fiber frames and can sell for thousands of dollars.

The company -- known for brands including Trek, Gary Fisher, Klein and Greg Le- Mond -- sells 1.5 million bikes a year and does $700 million in sales.

Burke was born in Chicago in 1934 and moved to Milwaukee when he enrolled at Marquette University there. He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1956 and later a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He worked for several companies, including an appliance distribution business.

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During the bicycle craze in the 1970s, he realized there was a need for a higher-end builder of bikes in the United States, his son said, because all the bikes in that segment were imports.

He couldn’t find any brands to distribute, so he started Trek.

Although his background was in finance and credit, he decided to take the risk, his son said.

Burke told Inc.com in July 2006 that the company built its first bike plant in 1980, and three years later sales were about $20 million.

The company now has a network of more than 5,000 dealers worldwide and 1,600 employees. Most of its manufacturing is done in Wisconsin, with production of lower-end bikes in Asia.


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