Bill Baker, the legendary PR man who played a key role in Land Rover's successful return to the U.S. in 1986, died Thursday, Feb. 16, at his home near Laguna Niguel, Calif. He was 72.
Baker, a broadcast newsman from Ohio, caught Ford's attention in the early 1970s with his road test segments that aired in Cleveland. Ford offered Baker a job on its broadcast media relations team. Two years later, Baker moved to Volvo, and then held management positions at Fiat-Lancia and Ferrari.
Baker then worked for Sony Corp. of America. In 1983, he opened his own shop and worked for Chrysler before becoming one of the first American employees of Land Rover of North America in 1986.
Land Rover's U.S. operations in the mid-1980s were small. Not only was the Range Rover a new vehicle and brand in the U.S., it was creating a new segment -- the luxury SUV.
Jean Jennings, former editor of Automobile magazine, said: "Bill Baker single-handedly put Land Rover on the map at a time when there was virtually no product. His press trips spanned the globe, each a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Great Divide, Morocco, Scotland, Iceland, Belize and on and on."