Industrialist Heinz Prechter, who was found dead at his home in Grosse Ile, MI, from an apparent suicide July 6, is succeeded as chairman of ASC Inc. by David Treadwell, formerly vice chairman of the company.

The American entrepreneur, Mr. Prechter, 59, is best known for pioneering the U.S. sunroof market and his fund-raising prowess within the Republican Party.

He founded ASC in 1965, known then as the American Sunroof Co. The company today is a conglomerate of automotive, newspaper, real estate, investment and livestock companies, with 60 facilities and 5,300 employees.

Born in Kleinhobing, Germany, Mr. Prechter began his automotive career at age 13 as an apprentice in automotive trim, tool and die making, and coach and body building. He came to the U.S. in 1963. His vision was to do the offline work that the mass-production factories couldn't easily do, starting with sunroofs.

Mr. Prechter expanded ASC to Detroit in 1967, eventually including custom vinyl tops, special-edition vehicles and unique show cars. Henry Ford II gave him a big break by sending Lincolns over to be fitted with vinyl roofs in the '70s.

Appointing Mr. Treadwell to the chairmanship was Mr. Prechter's widow, Waltraud, who became sole shareholder and chair of Prechter Holdings upon her husband's death.