'Big Al' Peterson, Founder of Spartacus Leathers, Dies

Lila Gray

PORTLAND, Ore. — “Big Al” Peterson, the founder of Spartacus Leathers and BDSM community activist, passed away on May 3. He was 85 years old.

Peterson had been struggling with some recurring health issues but died of natural causes, Spartacus VP Josh Miller told XBIZ.

According to Miller, Peterson was predominantly retired at the time of his death, but remained an active force in the company.  

“Even up until the last couple weeks, he would call every night and talk to all the employees of the store just to check up on numbers and stuff. I always turned to him if I had any questions about the how and the why of historical decisions,” Miller said. “He was very concerned and involved with company even in retirement.”

Born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1928, Peterson immigrated to the United States with less than $200 in his pocket. He secured employment at an adult store while simultaneously pursuing his master’s degree in civil engineering at the University of Indiana. When the owner of the adult store passed away, he left the store to Peterson who grew the business beyond what he inherited.  

Eventually, Peterson sold the business and moved to San Francisco. There he dabbled in construction work before returning to the adult market by opening a chain of adult stores and arcades that eventually spanned across the nation.

In the early '70s, Peterson moved to Portland, Ore., where he settled permanently. After fostering several successful businesses in Portland—mainstream and adult—Peterson founded Spartacus in 1987 in a deliberate move to innovate the BDSM product industry.

According to a statement issued by Spartacus, Peterson used his financial success to support fledgling businesses of friends and supplicants.

“’Big Al’ will be missed by all of us in the adult industry, especially his family here at Spartacus,” the statement reads, “His pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit will live on in the adult industry.”

Miller, one of the last employees hired personally by Peterson, told XBIZ that there will be no major structural changes in Spartacus enterprises.  

“I’m just very glad I got to know him and I’m honored to help carry on with this legacy that he started here,” Miller said.

Peterson is survived by his wife Lynda, three children, two stepchildren and five grandchildren.