William R. Peters, a corporate lawyer and businessman who had lived in East Hampton for the last 12 years, died on Jan. 21 after a sudden, short illness. His wife of 22 years, Shelley McBee Peters, was by his side. He had just turned 67.
Mr. Peters was born on Jan. 18, 1946, in Great Neck, and grew up there. He was a graduate of the University of Rochester, where he received a bachelor’s degree, and of New York University Law School, where he earned juris doctor and master’s degrees. During the Vietnam era, he served in the Army.
Following law school, Mr. Peters joined Davis, Polk, and Wardwell in New York, where he practiced corporate law for a number of years. In the late 1970s, he became the assistant general counsel, secretary, and director of acquisitions at SCM Corporation, where he spent 10 years.
He then moved to Colgate Palmolive as associate general counsel, assistant secretary, and vice president for corporate law, with the corporate and regulatory departments reporting to him.
After going through the advanced management program at Harvard Business School, Mr. Peters resigned from Colgate in 1992. With a partner, Richard Donahue, he formed a private equity firm. Eventually, the partnership bid successfully for Maine Trailer, and Mr. Peters became the company’s chief executive officer. He guided the company through two recessions and a period of unprecedented volatility in fuel prices.
Away from work, Mr. Peters enjoyed the water. He was an active and enthusiastic sailor for most of his life, participating in a number of open ocean races and at one time serving as skipper in the Bermuda Race and winning his class. He was a member of the New York Yacht Club and of the Devon Yacht Club in Amagansett. He and his wife enjoyed many happy hours on Long Island Sound and cruising along the New England coastline, on their own boat or on a friend’s.
According to a friend, John Townsend, “Mr. Peters’s sharp intellect, his talent for intellectual combat — invariably lighthearted — and his fun-loving style were a source of delight for his friends and family.”
“Like most,” Mr. Townsend said, “he had little taste for pomposity and bombast, but when he encountered them, he was more often amused than annoyed. Disagreement with him was never disagreeable.”
In addition to his wife, whom he married on Oct. 12, 1991, Mr. Peters is survived by a brother, Ron Peters of Oneonta, N.Y.
Mr. Peters was cremated. A celebration of his life will be held at 11 a.m. on Feb. 16 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton, the Rev. Timothy Lewis of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Bridgehampton presiding.
Memorial donations have been suggested to the National Maritime Historical Society, P.O. Box 68, Peekskill, N.Y. 10566, the Island Institute, P.O. Box 648, Rockland, Me. 04841, or the National World War II Museum, 945 Magazine Street, New Orleans, La. 70130.