Eric Smidt

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Not to be confused with Eric Schmidt, Eric Schmitt, or Erich Schmidt.
Eric Smidt
Photo of Eric Smidt, CEO of Harbor Freight Tools.jpg
Born Los Angeles, California, US
Residence Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Occupation Chairman & CEO Harbor Freight Tools
Net worth DecreaseUS$1 billion (2010)[1]
Spouse(s) Susan Smidt

Eric Smidt is an American businessman. He is Chairman and CEO of Harbor Freight Tools, which operates over 500 retail hardware stores in 46 states and generated revenue of approximately $2 billion according to an April, 2012 Moody's Investors Service report.[2]


Eric L. Smidt was born in Los Angeles, California in 1960 to Allan Smidt and Dorthy Smidt. He attended Grant High School in Van Nuys, a suburb of Los Angeles. In 1977, as a teenager, Smidt started Harbor Freight Tools with his father in a small building in North Hollywood, California. Originally known as Harbor Freight & Salvage Co., the company began as a mail-order tool business. Eric introduced the company's defining innovation of cutting out the middleman and began to source tools directly from the factories to the customer.

In 1985, Smidt was named president of the company at the age of 25; he served under that title until 1999 when he became CEO.[3] In 2001, Smidt was listed as one of Ernst & Young's Entrepreneurs of the year.[4]

Tenure as Chairman and CEO[edit]

In 2008, Eric responded to the turbulence in the global economy by implementing a company-wide reinvigoration plan. Eric and his team drove growth in company performance and a culture of continuous improvement. The team drove improvements that led to new products and lower prices for Harbor Freight customers.[5]


Smidt has been a long-time supporter of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, University of Southern California and UCLA. In 2012, he funded a new public high school in Los Angeles known as "Smidt Tech" (also known as Alliance Susan & Eric Smidt Technology High) for Alliance College-Ready Public Schools (an independent non-profit charter school manager).[6]

In January 2013, Smidt directed Harbor Freight Tools to donate $1.4 million in tools and equipment to the Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) Career Technical Education program after learning that its annual budget was cut to one quarter of what it was two years earlier. He named this program "Tools for Schools". He observed that "for far too long vocational education has not been given the attention and funding it deserves," and added that, "at a time when a well trained workforce is essential to compete in the global economy, the United States too often falls short."[7]

In August 2013, Smidt expanded the Tools for Schools program by donating a $100,000 gift of tools and equipment to vocational schools in and around Dillon County, South Carolina.[8]


Co-Founder Allan Smidt filed a lawsuit against Harbor Freight Tools and his son Eric Smidt in response to the replacement of most of the company's legacy management team following the 2008 economic downturn. The lawsuit was settled in April 2011. The terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Smidt is a collector of modern art and serves on the boards of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Portland Art Museum.[10] He is reported to own the former Marvin Davis estate, which was on the Forbes list of most expensive houses in 2004, in Beverly Hills.[11] The 13-bedroom, 12-bath, 25,000 sqft home, on 10 acres, has two swimming pools and a tennis court. It was reportedly purchased by Smidt for close to $50 million. Smidt also owns an estate in the Beverly Park gated community,[12] as well as a Malibu beach house.[13]

Smidt is a prominent Los Angeles Democrat, who's hosted fundraiser dinners for both Bill and Hillary Clinton.[14] He is a friend of former Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, and has donated money to help pay down the Mayor's ethics fines.[15] On March 4, 2013, LA Weekly reported that Smidt donated $50,000 to the Coalition for School Reform to elect Kate Anderson and Antonio Sanchez to the LAUSD Board of Education, and to re-elect incumbent Monica Garcia. He also contributed $114,300 to a number of Democratic campaigns in 2012.[16]

Smidt has trained as a jet aircraft pilot with over 30 years of experience.[17]