Lee Iacocca

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Lee Iacocca
Lee Iacocca at the White House in 1993.jpg
Iacocca at the White House in September 1993
Born Lido Anthony Iacocca
(1924-10-15) October 15, 1924 (age 89)
Allentown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation Businessman
Former Chrysler Chairman
Former Ford President
Spouse(s) Mary McCleary (1956-1983)
Peggy Johnson (1986-1987)
Darrien Earle (1991-1994)
Children Kathryn and Lia (with first wife)
Website
leeiacocca.com
iacoccafoundation.org
iacocca-lehigh.org

Lido Anthony "Lee" Iacocca (/ˌ.əˈkkə/ EYE-ə-KOH-kə; born October 15, 1924) is an American businessman known for engineering the Ford Mustang and Ford Pinto cars, being let go from Ford Motor Company, and his revival of the Chrysler Corporation in the 1980s.[1] He served as President and CEO of Chrysler from 1978 and additionally as chairman from 1979, until his retirement at the end of 1992.

Iacocca was a passionate advocate of U.S. business exports during the 1980s. He is the author (or co-author) of several books, including Iacocca: An Autobiography (with William Novak), and Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

Portfolio named Iacocca the 18th-greatest American CEO of all time.[2]

Early life[edit]

Iacocca was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania to Nicola Iacocca and Antonietta Perrotta, Italian immigrants (from San Marco dei Cavoti, Benevento) who had settled in Pennsylvania's steel-making belt. They operated a restaurant, Yocco's Hot Dogs. He was said to have been christened with the unusual name "Lido" because he was conceived during his parents' honeymoon in the Lido district in Venice, however, he refutes this rumor in his autobiography, saying that is romantic but not true: his father went to Lido long before his marriage and was traveling with his future wife's brother.[3]

Iacocca graduated from Allentown High School (now known as William Allen High School) in 1942, and Lehigh University in neighboring Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in industrial engineering. He is a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, and an alumnus of Theta Chi Fraternity.

After graduating from Lehigh, he won the Wallace Memorial Fellowship and went to Princeton University, where he took his electives in politics and plastics. He then began a career at the Ford Motor Company as an engineer. Eventually dissatisfied with that job, he switched career paths at Ford, entering the company's sales force. He was very successful in sales, and he moved up through the ranks of Ford, moving ultimately to product development.

Marriage and family[edit]

Iacocca was married to Mary McCleary on September 29, 1956. They had two daughters: Kathryn and Lia. Mary Iacocca died on May 15, 1983 from diabetes. Both before and after her death, Iacocca became a strong advocate for better medical treatment of diabetes patients, who frequently faced debilitating and fatal complications.

Iacocca married his second wife Peggy Johnson on April 17, 1986 but in 1987, after nineteen months, Iacocca had the marriage annulled. He married a third wife, Darrien Earle, in 1991. They were divorced three years later.

Career at Ford[edit]

Iacocca joined Ford Motor Company in August 1946. After a brief stint in engineering, he asked to be moved to sales and marketing, where his career flourished. While working in the Philadelphia district as assistant sales manager, Iacocca gained national recognition with his "56 for '56" campaign, offering loans on 1956 model year cars with a 20% down payment and $56 in monthly payments for three years.[4] His campaign went national, and Iacocca was called to Dearborn, where he quickly moved up through the ranks. On November 10, 1960 Iacocca was named vice-president and general manager of the Ford Division; in January 1965 Ford's vice-president, car and truck group; in 1967, executive vice-president; and president on December 10, 1970.

Iacocca participated in the design of several successful Ford automobiles, most notably the Ford Mustang, the Lincoln Continental Mark III, the Ford Escort and the revival of the Mercury brand in the late 1960s, including the introduction of the Mercury Cougar and Mercury Marquis. He promoted other ideas which did not reach the marketplace as Ford products. These included cars ultimately introduced by Chrysler – the K car and the minivan. Eventually, he became the president of the Ford Motor Company, but he clashed with Henry Ford II. He was fired on July 13, 1978 although the company posted a $2 billion profit for the year.

1973 Ford Pinto Runabout

Ford Pinto fuel tank controversy[edit]

Iacocca was also the "moving force", as one court put it, behind the Ford Pinto.[5] In 1977, there were allegations that the Pinto's structural design allowed its fuel-tank filler neck to break off[6] and the fuel tank to be punctured in a rear-end collision,[6] resulting in deadly fires. Iacocca was quoted as saying "Safety doesn't sell"; he became an icon of the economic appraisal of human life. This case is a staple of engineering ethics courses as an example of a bad cost–benefit analysis.[7][8]

Career at Chrysler[edit]

Iacocca was strongly courted by the Chrysler Corporation, which was on the verge of going out of business. At the time, the company was losing millions, largely due to recalls of its Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare. Iacocca later said they should never have been built. Iacocca joined Chrysler and began rebuilding the entire company from the ground up, laying off many workers, selling the loss-making Chrysler Europe division to Peugeot, and bringing in many former associates from his former company.

Also from Ford, Iacocca brought to Chrysler the "Mini-Max" project, which, in 1983, bore fruit in the highly successful Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Henry Ford II had wanted nothing to do with the Mini-Max, a restyled version of the minivan, which Toyota was selling in huge numbers in Asia and Latin America, and his opinion doomed the project at Ford. Hal Sperlich, the driving force behind the Mini-Max at Ford, had been fired a few months before Iacocca. He had been hired by Chrysler, where the two would make automotive history.

Iacocca arrived shortly after Chrysler's introduction of the subcompact Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon. Bearing a strong resemblance to the Volkswagen Rabbit, the front-wheel drive Omni and Horizon became instant hits, selling over 300,000 units each in their debut year, showing what was to come for Chrysler. The Omni had been designed alongside the Chrysler Horizon with much input from the Chrysler Europe division of the company (evidenced by many examples having VW/Audi engines), which Iacocca axed in 1978.

Iacocca gave an exclusive Chrysler Motors concession in Colombia to Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, known to be the head of the Colombian drug dealing Cali Cartel.[9]

1979 Chrysler bailout[edit]

the Dodge Aries, a typical K-Car

Realizing that the company would go out of business if it did not receive a significant amount of money for a turnaround, Iacocca approached the United States Congress in 1979 and asked for a loan guarantee. While some have said that Congress lent Chrysler the money, the government only guaranteed the loans. Most observers thought this was an unprecedented move, but Iacocca pointed to the government's bailouts of the airline and railroad industries. He argued that there were more jobs at stake in Chrysler's possible demise. Iacocca received the loan guarantee from the government, whose decision caused controversy.

Chrysler released the first of the K-Car line: the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant, in 1981. Similar to the later minivan, these compact automobiles were based on design proposals which Ford had rejected during Iacocca's (and Sperlich's) tenure. Released in the middle of the major 1980-1982 recession, the small, efficient and inexpensive front-wheel drive cars sold rapidly. In addition, Iacocca re-introduced the big Imperial as the company's flagship. The new model had all of the newest technologies of the time, including fully electronic fuel injection and all-digital dashboard.

Chrysler introduced the minivan, chiefly Sperlich's "baby," in the fall of 1983. It led the automobile industry in sales for 25 years.[10] Because of the K-cars and minivans, along with the reforms Iacocca implemented, the company turned around quickly and was able to repay the government-backed loans seven years earlier than expected.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee design was the driving force behind Chrysler's buyout of AMC; Iacocca desperately wanted it.

Iacocca led Chrysler's acquisition of AMC in 1987, which brought the profitable Jeep division under the corporate umbrella. It created the short-lived Eagle division, formed from the remnants of AMC. By this time, AMC had already finished most of the work with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which Iacocca wanted. The Grand Cherokee would not be released until 1992 for the 1993 model year, the same year that Iacocca retired.

Throughout the 1980s, Iacocca appeared in a series of commercials for the company's vehicles, using the ad campaign, "The pride is back", to denote the turnaround of the corporation. He also used what was to become his trademark phrase: "If you can find a better car, buy it."

Iacocca retired as President, CEO and Chairman of Chrysler at the end of 1992.

1995 "Return" to Chrysler[edit]

In 1995, Iacocca assisted in billionaire Kirk Kerkorian's hostile takeover of Chrysler, which was ultimately unsuccessful. The next year, Kerkorian and Chrysler made a five-year agreement which included a gag order preventing Iacocca from speaking publicly about Chrysler.[11]

In July 2005, Iacocca returned to the airwaves as Chrysler's pitchman,[1] along with stars such as Jason Alexander and Snoop Dogg, to promote Chrysler's "Employee Pricing Plus" program; the ads reprise the "If you can find a better car, buy it" line, Iacocca's trademark of the 1980s. In return for his services, Iacocca and DaimlerChrysler agreed that his fees, plus a $1 donation per vehicle sold from July 1 through December 31, 2005, would be donated to the Iacocca Foundation for diabetes research.

Chrysler's 2009 bankruptcy[edit]

In an April 2009 Newsweek interview, Iacocca reflected on his time spent at Chrysler and the company's current situation. He said:[12]

This is a sad day for me. It pains me to see my old company, which has meant so much to America, on the ropes. But Chrysler has been in trouble before, and we got through it, and I believe they can do it again. If they're smart, they'll bring together a consortium of workers, plant managers and dealers to come up with real solutions. These are the folks on the front lines, and they're the key to survival. Let's face it, if your car breaks down, you're not going to take it to the White House to get fixed. But, if your company breaks down, you've got to go to the experts on the ground, not the bureaucrats. Every day I talk to dealers and managers, who are passionate and full of ideas. No one wants Chrysler to survive more than they do. So I'd say to the Obama administration, don't leave them out. Put their passion and ideas to work.

Because of the Chrysler bankruptcy, Iacocca may lose part of his pension from a supplemental executive retirement plan, and a guaranteed company car during his lifetime. The losses were due to take place once the bankruptcy court approves the sale of Chrysler to Chrysler Group LLC, with ownership of the new company by the United Auto Workers, the Italian carmaker Fiat and the governments of the United States and Canada.[13]

Other work and activities[edit]

Books[edit]

In 1984, Iacocca co-authored (with William Novak) an autobiography, titled Iacocca: An Autobiography. It was the best selling non-fiction hardback book of 1984 and 1985. He donated the proceeds of the book's sales to diabetes research.

In 1988, Iacocca co-authored (with Sonny Kleinfeld) Talking Straight,[14] a book meant as a counterbalance to Akio Morita's Made in Japan, a non-fiction book praising Japan's post-war hard-working culture. Talking Straight praised the innovation and creativity of Americans.[15]

On May 17, 2007, Simon & Schuster published Iacocca's book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?, co-written with Catherine Whitney.[16][17] An article with the same title, and same two co-authors, has recently been published.[18] In the book, Iacocca writes:

Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course." Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

Businesses[edit]

Iacocca partnered with producer Pierre Cossette to bring a production of The Will Rogers Follies to Branson, Missouri in 1994. He also invested in Branson Hills, a 1,400-acre housing development.[19]

In 1993, he had joined the board of MGM Grand, led by his friend Kirk Kerkorian.[20] He started a merchant bank to fund ventures in the gaming industry, which he called "the fastest-growing business in the world".[21] In 1995, he sold his interests in several Indian gaming projects to Full House Resorts, a casino operator led by his friend Allen Paulson, becoming a major shareholder and later a member of the board of directors.[22]

Iacocca joined the board of restaurant chain Koo Koo Roo in 1995.[23] In 1998, he stepped up to serve as acting chairman of the troubled company, and led it through a merger with Family Restaurants (owner of Chi-Chi's and El Torito). He sat on the board of the merged company until stepping down in 1999.[24]

In 1999, Iacocca became the head of EV Global Motors, a company formed to develop and market electric bikes with a top speed of 15 mph and a range of 20 miles between recharging at wall outlets.[25][dead link]

Politics[edit]

Iacocca meets with President Bill Clinton on September 23, 1993.

Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey discussed with Iacocca an appointment to the U.S. Senate in 1991 after the death of Senator H. John Heinz III, but Iacocca declined.

Politically, Iacocca supported the Republican candidate George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election. In the 2004 presidential election, however, he endorsed Bush's opponent, Democrat John Kerry.[26] In Michigan's 2006 gubernatorial race, Iacocca appeared in televised political ads endorsing Republican candidate Dick DeVos,[27] who lost. Iacocca endorsed New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson for President in the 2008 Presidential Election.

On December 3, 2007, Iacocca launched a website to encourage open dialogue about the challenges of our time. He has introduced topics such as health care costs, and the United States' lag in developing alternative energy sources and hybrid vehicles. The site also promotes his book Where Have All the Leaders Gone. It provides an interactive means for users to rate presidential candidates by the qualities Iacocca believes they should possess: curiosity, creativity, communication, character, courage, conviction, charisma, competence and common sense.

In 2012, he endorsed Mitt Romney for President.[28]

Activism and philanthropy[edit]

In May 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Iacocca to head the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, which was created to raise funds for the renovation and preservation of the Statue of Liberty. He continues to serve on the board of the foundation.

Following the death of Iacocca's wife from diabetes, he became an active supporter of research for the disease. He has been one of the main patrons of the research of Denise Faustman at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2000, Iacocca founded Olivio Premium Products, which manufactures the Olivio line of food products made from olive oil. He donates all profits from the company to diabetes research. In 2004, Iacocca launched Join Lee Now,[29] a national grassroots campaign, to bring Faustman's research to human clinical trials in 2006.

Iacocca has been an advocate of "Nourish the Children," an initiative of Nu Skin Enterprises,[30] since its inception in 2002. He is currently its chairman. He helped donate a generator for the Malawi VitaMeal plant.

Iacocca led the fundraising campaign to enable Lehigh University to adapt and use vacant buildings formerly owned by Bethlehem Steel. Iacocca Hall on the Mountaintop Campus of Lehigh University houses the College of Education, the biology and chemical engineering departments, and The Iacocca Institute, which is focused on global competitiveness.

Acting[edit]

Iacocca played Park Commissioner Lido in "Sons and Lovers", the 44th episode of Miami Vice, which premiered on May 9, 1986. The name of the character is a play on his birth name.

Awards[edit]

In 1985, Iacocca received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[31]

In other media[edit]

  • Lee Iacocca Elementary School, named after him, is a fictional school referenced in the film RoboCop, visited by the titular character of the movie.
  • In the film Watchmen, Adrian Voidt/Ozymandias refers to a man attempting to dissuade him from inventing a means of providing free energy as "Mr. Iacocca".

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Hakim, Danny (2005-07-19). "Iacocca, Away From the Grind, Still Has a Lot to Say". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  2. ^ http://www.cnbc.com/id/30391313/?slide=4
  3. ^ "Leading the fightback: The American car industry faces souring costs, a flood tide of imported competition and a tightening net of legislation. Men like Iacocca have to fight the way out - and he is confident it can be done. An interview by Edouard Seidler (at a time when Iacocca was the President of Ford Motor Company)". Autocar. 134. (nbr 3909): pages 22–23. 25 February 1971. 
  4. ^ Iaccoca, Lee (1984). Iacocca: An autobiography. New York: Batam Bookes. ISBN 0-553-38497-X. 
  5. ^ Ford Pinto reference
  6. ^ a b "Birth of the Ford Pinto". Howstuffworks.com. 
  7. ^ "Pinto Madness". Mother Jones, Mark Dowie, September/October, 1977. 
  8. ^ "The 50 Worst Cars of All Time". September 7, 2007. 
  9. ^ "A Day with the Chess Player". Time. July 1, 1991. 
  10. ^ "After a Quarter Century, Dodge Loses Minivan Crown to Honda". Fox News. 6 January 2009. Retrieved 13 January 2009. 
  11. ^ Special Reports: Timeline: The career of Lee Iacocca. - Detroit News. - March 17, 2002.
  12. ^ Halpert, Julie (2009-04-30). "It Pains Me". Newsweek. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  13. ^ Chasan, Emily (2009-05-29). "Iacocca losing pension, car in Chrysler bankruptcy". Reuters. Retrieved 2009-05-30. [dead link]
  14. ^ ISBN 0-553-05270-5
  15. ^ "Talking Straight (Hardcover) - Editorial Reviews". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  16. ^ Where Have All the Leaders Gone on bookstandard.com
  17. ^ Catherine Whitney reference
  18. ^ http://www.ichblog.eu/content/view/1145/1/
  19. ^ Archerd, Army (12 April 1994). "Showbiz makes unlikely stand in Branson, Mo.". Variety. Retrieved 2012-04-16. 
  20. ^ "Business in Brief". Chicago Sun-Times (via HighBeam Research). 7 April 1993. Retrieved 2012-04-16.  (subscription required)
  21. ^ Iacocca, Lee (30 May 1994). 'I couldn't just play golf all day'. Interview with Alex Taylor. Fortune. Retrieved 2012-04-16. 
  22. ^ Form 10KSB (Report). Full House Resorts. 31 March 1999. http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/891482/0000950170-99-000482.txt. Retrieved 2012-04-12.
  23. ^ "Lee Iacocca Joins Board of Koo Koo Roo Restaurants". Los Angeles Times. 14 August 1995. Retrieved 2012-04-16. 
  24. ^ Hernandez, Greg (17 April 1999). "Iacocca to Resign From Koo Koo Roo Board". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-04-16. 
  25. ^ Car czar Iacocca now hypes bikes and small electrical cars based on golf cart technology.
  26. ^ Iacocca and Kerry. - CNN. - June 24, 2004
  27. ^ Ad Punch.org report on DeVos political ads
  28. ^ Lee Iacocca endorses Mitt Romney as man of experience, Detroit Free Press, October 18, 2012
  29. ^ Join Lee Now website
  30. ^ Nu Skin Enterprises website
  31. ^ http://www.jeffersonawards.org/pastwinners/national

Bibliography[edit]

Works by[edit]

Works about[edit]

  • Vlasic, Bill and Bradley A. Stertz (2000sbn=0688173055). Taken for a Ride: How Daimler-Benz Drove off with Chrysler. William Morrow & Company. 

External links[edit]