Nanci Ryder, who co-founded Baker/Winokur/Ryder (BWR) Public Relations more than three decades ago, representing top stars such as Reese Witherspoon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael J. Fox and Courteney Cox, died Thursday of motor neuron disease ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). She was 67.
Ryder was diagnosed with ALS in August 2014 and stepped down from BWR soon after. She went public with her diagnosis in October 2014 and told press — communicating by means of a tablet — that she would dedicate the rest of her life to raising awareness of the disease and finding a cure for it.
Known for her wicked sense of humor and devotion to four-letter words, she continued to tap out jokes long after she lost her voice.
Ryder was a mentor to many in talent public relations who have gone on to practices of their own.
Ryder founded BWR in 1984, working with clients including Paul Reiser, Helen Hunt, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Sarah Jessica Parker and Paul Rodriguez.
In 1987, she teamed with Larry Winokur and Paul Baker to form Baker/Winokur/Ryder Public Relations, which helped guide the careers of talent including Renée Zellweger, Viggo Mortensen, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey and Jennifer Garner.
She also worked in the fashion world, advising design houses including Prada, Gucci and Armani.
Born in Orlando, Fla., Ryder spent her youth in Long Island, N.Y. and studied at C.W. Post College.
She became a talent agent in 1979 at David Shapira Agency in Los Angeles, then joined Goldberg-Ehrlich Public Relations and Management. From there she moved to Michael Levine Public Relations, where she represented clients including Demi Moore and formed a relationship with Fox.
Ryder was an active supporter of the Humane Animal Rescue Team (HART) and the Revlon UCLA Cancer Research Center, where she served as a tireless campaigner for fundraising and research after recovering from breast cancer.
Her close friend Zellweger, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Bryan Lourd, Witherspoon, Cox, Angie Harmon and Justine Bateman were present to support Team Nanci at the annual L.A. County Walk to Defeat ALS in 2015.
“She keeps moving the goal post and defying expectations every year,” Zellweger told Variety at the 2018 walk. “This is the very least we can do to come out and show our support and to show her that she’s not going through this alone.”
Team Nanci, one of the largest fundraising teams in the U.S. for research towards a cure for ALS, raised more than $820,000 for the ALS Association Golden West Chapter.
She is survived by a stepbrother, Dr. Stanley Schwartz.
Donations may be made teamnanci.org in support of the mission and vision of The ALS Association Golden West Chapter.