John Casablancas—the founder of Elite Models whose eye for beauty and star power is credited with creating the supermodel—died Saturday in Rio de Janeiro after a long battle with cancer. He was 70.
When he opened Elite in the seventies, Casablancas turned the modeling business on its head, countering the conservative approach of established agencies like Ford and Wilhelmina. He made fresh faces such as Gisele Bündchen, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, and Cindy Crawford household names—although he later came to lament his supermodel creations, calling them all “spoilt troublemakers” upon his retirement in 2000.
Casablancas’ rise to the top wasn’t without its scandals, both personal and professional. For instance, his public affair with a 16-year-old Stephanie Seymour in 1983 ended his second marriage to former Miss Denmark Jeanette Christjansen. However, his business savvy and flamboyant persona are largely associated with the financial boon of Elite, once capped at $100 million a year in bookings fees.