George Newell Armsby
George Newell Armsby (also known as George N. Armsby and George Armsby) (10 August 1876 in Evanston, Illinois – 24 March 1942 in New York City, New York) was an American entrepreneur, most noted for his drive toward corporate mergers in the first half of the 20th century: first the merger of California food companies that resulted in California Packing Corporation, which sold under the Del Monte and Sunkist labels.
Armsby was on the board of numerous corporations, including Curtiss-Wright (where he served as Chairman), Universal Pictures, Bancamerica-Blair, and many others. He was associated throughout his business life with John Cheever Cowdin, with whom he ran Universal Pictures; they were also both involved in the formation of Transcontinental Air Transport, Inc., which was later a foundation of TWA.
Armsby was the son of food-packing entrepreneur James Kendall Armsby. He went to work for his father's concern, J.K. Armsby Co., and on 28 December 1898 he married Leonora Chestnut Wood, daughter of Colorado mining entrepreneur Tingley Sylvanus Wood.
California Packing Corporation
In the mid-1910s he conceived a plan to unite California's food-packing companies under a single association, and he went to New York to secure the $16,000,000 in financing necessary to do it. Blair & Co. and William Salomon & Co. lent him the funds, and California Packing Corporation was founded.
After serving on the Priorities Commission of the War Industries Board, her persuaded his two lenders on the CalPack deal to merge and he went to work for the new concern, Blair & Co., Inc. In time, the new enterprise was bought by Transamerica, and Armsby found himself working under his friend and fellow fruit-grower Amadeo Giannini. In time, this link would prove crucial to Armsby's next venture.
Bank of America-Blair
After playing a role in the construction of 40 Wall Street, for a time the world's tallest building and now The Trump Building, Armsby and Cowdin persuaded Giannini's Bank of America to merge with Blair, which became - in 1931, in the depths of the Great Depression - a major force on Wall Street.
As his business ventures soared, Armsby's personal life was no less colorful. His marriage to Leonora disintegrated, and in March 1929 she sued for and was granted a divorce in the San Francisco courts, alleging (as was common at the time with unhappy spouses) that Armsby had abandoned her in New York in 1924. The subsequent divorce settlement of $1,000,000 made the papers as far away as Helena, Montana. Notably, Leonora retained the Armsby name until her death in 1962.
Armsby's personal life made the papers next year when, in March 1930, he announced that he was marrying, at age 54, a 36-year old woman, Colette Touzeau, whom the N.Y. Times and other papers tartly (if apparently accurately) called an ex show-girl. They did marry that month, in Los Angeles, and remained together until Armsby's death twelve years later.
Armsby's business life showed no sign of slowdown as he went into the 1940s. He remained involved with Curtiss-Wright and Universal Pictures, in fact was a defendant in an anti-trust case against the movie industry in the late 1930s.
His death in 1942 was sudden, and the newspaper coverage paid tribute to his vast network of business activity and connections.
Print References (small selection)
"Matron of Society Sheds Her Hubby" - Helena Independent, Mar 3, 1929.
"Armsby Weds Wednesday" - N.Y. Times, Mar 23, 1930, page N7
"Transamerica Unscrambled" - Time Magazine, Oct. 05, 1931
"Peaches, Prunes & Bonds" - Time Magazine, Mar. 28, 1932
Obituary, N.Y. Times, Sept. 26, 1942
Obituary, N.Y. Times, Sept. 27, 1942
Web References (small selection)
"Transamerica Unscrambled" - http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,753056,00.html
"Peaches, Prunes & Bonds" - http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,929871-1,00.html