Categotry Archives: Business

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Arthur Zankel

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Categories: Business

azankel.jpgFinancier and philanthropist Arthur Zankel committed suicide on July 28. He was 73.
The native New Yorker earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He started working for the First Manhattan Co. in 1965, and spent the next three decades amassing a fortune as an investment manager.
In 2000, Zankel founded the real estate investment firm, High Rise Capital Management, where he was the co-managing partner. He sat on the board of directors at Citigroup Inc. until 2004, when he reached the mandatory age of retirement.
Zankel lived well, but he also believed in helping people follow their dreams through education. A trustee at Skidmore College and Columbia University’s Teachers College, he underwrote Reading Buddies, a tutoring program for Harlem youths.
In the late 1990s, Zankel and his wife donated $10 million to fund a new $100 million venue at Carnegie Hall. Named in their honor, Judy and Arthur Zankel Hall fulfilled Andrew Carnegie’s original plans to create three performance spaces in one location. The 600-seat underground recital space, which offers a wide variety of performing and educational events, opened in 2003.
In his spare time, Zankel took music appreciation classes and often attended events at Carnegie Hall. He also managed the hall’s endowment fund. Under his guidance, it grew nearly sevenfold to $124 million.
Zankel, who was being treated for depression, jumped from the ninth floor of his Fifth Avenue apartment and later died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He did not leave a note.

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Gerry Thomas

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Categories: Business

In an effort to rid his company of surplus turkey, Gerald Ehrmann Thomas tied together entertainment and food in a manner that would inadvertently affect the way Americans ate for the next 50 years. He created and named the “TV Dinner.”
A marketing executive for C.A. Swanson and Sons, Thomas was visiting a distributor when he saw a single-compartment metal tray that was being developed to serve hot meals on airplanes. Recalling his five years in the Army Signal Corps during World War II, and the way his mess kit used to mix food together, Thomas created his own tray, one that divided foods into three compartments. He then devised a marketing plan for the meal and pitched it to his bosses.
They loved the idea.
The first Swanson TV Dinner contained turkey with cornbread dressing and gravy, sweet potatoes and buttered peas. Sold for $1.29, each dinner could be baked in the oven in less than 30 minutes. Ten million TV dinners were sold the first year of national distribution.
Although there is some debate over who truly invented the TV dinner, Thomas’ version hit the U.S. market at just the right time. Women who were entering the work force or becoming less interested in domestic activities appreciated its quick cooking time. Singles and lower-income workers liked getting an entire meal for one low price. And children enjoyed having the ability to choose what they ate for dinner, especially after 1960 when Swanson added a small dessert to each tray. The original TV dinner tray resides in the Smithsonian Institute next to the leather jacket worn by the Fonz in the TV show “Happy Days.”
Thomas received a $100 raise and a $1,000 bonus for his invention, and was inducted into the Frozen Food Hall of Fame. In 1999, his handprints were stamped in cement next to the classic three-compartment tray and placed on display at Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Maxim magazine even named him one of the “50 Greatest Guys of the Century.”
“He was very proud of the TV Dinner, but it never crossed his mind that he would ever get any notoriety out of it. He just ate up the publicity. He was a real ham,” said Thomas’ wife, Susan.
As a young man, Thomas earned a Bronze Star for helping to break a Japanese code during the Battle of Okinawa. The Nebraska native remained with Swanson after the Campbell Soup Co. took over in 1955, and worked his way up the corporate ladder to director of marketing and sales. After retiring in 1970, he spent his final years running an art gallery in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and doing consulting work.
Thomas died on July 18 of liver cancer. He was 83.
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Louis H. Wilson Jr.

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Categories: Business, Military

lwilson.jpgGen. Louis Hugh Wilson Jr., the 26th commandant of the Marine Corps and a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, died on June 21. Cause of death was not released. He was 85.
The Mississippi native studied economics at Millsaps College, where he played football and ran track. In 1941, a Marine Corps recruiter persuaded him to enlist in the service after graduation. This decision would forever alter the course of his life.
During World War II, Wilson served with the 9th Marines in the Pacific theatre. He was the commanding officer of Company F, 2d Battalion, in 1944 when he helped launch the two-day incursion on Fonte Ridge, Guam. In a daylight attack against Japanese machine gunners and riflemen, Wilson led his men across 300 yards of open terrain and captured a heavily defended hill containing an opposition command post. That night, he ordered the troops to fortify the post’s defenses and spent 10 hours under enemy fire.
Wilson was wounded three times during the battle; he briefly received medical treatment then returned to the front to help his men fight the Japanese counterattacks. At one point, he even ran through flying shrapnel and bullets to save a wounded Marine beyond front lines. For taking and holding a key position, and for “exceptionally distinguished service,” Wilson received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for heroism in combat, from President Harry S. Truman on Oct. 5, 1945.
After the war, Wilson took on recruiting and command assignments on both coasts and in Korea, and continued to rise through the ranks. He taught at the Marine Corps Schools in Quantico, graduated from the National War College and served as assistant chief of staff to the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam. There he earned the Legion of Merit and the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with a Gold Star.
As a lieutenant general, Wilson assumed command of the Fleet Marine Force in the Pacific. For his service, he earned a second Legion of Merit, the Korean Order of National Security Merit, a GUK-SEON Medal, 2d Class and the Philippine Legion of Honor. Wilson received his third Legion of Merit for commanding the I Marine Amphibious Force, 3d Marine Division on Okinawa.
In 1975, Wilson was promoted to a full general and became the 26th commandant of the Marine Corps. In this position, he renewed emphasis on combat readiness, increased academic enlistment standards, addressed disciplinary problems within the ranks and toughened weight requirements. Today, 98 percent of enlistees are high school graduates.
Wilson’s achievements caught the eye of Sen. John Stennis (D-Miss.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Stennis successfully campaigned on his behalf, and in 1978, Wilson was given full membership on the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Wilson retired in 1979 and spent his later years serving on the corporate boards of Merrill Lynch and Fluor Corp. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

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John T. Walton

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Categories: Business, Education, Military

John Thomas Walton, an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune and one of the wealthiest men in America, died on June 27 in a plane crash. He was 58.
Walton had just taken off from Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming on Monday afternoon when his homemade, ultralight aircraft crashed in Grand Teton National Park. He was the sole occupant of the plane, which weighed an estimated 400 to 500 pounds and ran on a small, gasoline-powered engine. Cause of the accident is under investigation.
The Arkansas native dropped out of The College of Wooster in Ohio, then served with the Green Berets as a medic in Vietnam. There he earned the Silver Star for saving the lives of several members of his unit while under enemy fire. When Walton returned to the states, he opted to have minimal involvement with the family business. Instead, he started a crop-dusting company in Texas and Arizona and a boat-building business in California.
Walton’s father was Sam Walton, who founded Wal-Mart and turned it into one of the biggest companies in the world. In March, John Walton and his younger brother Jim tied for No. 11 on the Forbes magazine list of the world’s richest people. (Spot No. 10 belongs to John’s older brother Rob, the chairman of Wal-Mart.) The sixth richest man in America, John Walton had a net worth of approximately $18.2 billion.
Through inheritance, Walton became a major stakeholder in Wal-Mart. He owned about 12 million shares of the company’s stock and shared ownership of about 1.7 billion shares with his family in a joint partnership called Walton Enterprises. Walton joined the board of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., in 1992, and sat on the company committee that reviews Wal-Mart’s finances and oversees long-range planning, but was not considered to be a potential successor to his brother.
Although he was a successful businessman in his own right, Walton’s passion was philanthropy, particularly in the area of education. In 1998, he and Wall Street buyout artist Ted Forstmann co-founded the Children’s Scholarship Fund. To date, the fund has provided tuition assistance to more than 67,000 low-income families that want to send their kids to private schools. In his spare time, Walton loved to fly. He also enjoyed skydiving, scuba diving and riding motorcycles.

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John DeLorean

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Categories: Business, Military

jdelorean.jpgJohn Zachary DeLorean, an engineer and entrepreneur who developed several cars for top automakers before branching off on his own, died on March 19 of complications from a stroke. He was 80.
DeLorean was the eldest son of a Ford Motor Company foundry worker. The Detroit native attended the Lawrence Institute of Technology on a music scholarship, served three years in the U.S. Army during World War II and earned a master’s degree in automotive engineering from the Chrysler Institute. He worked for the Chrysler Corporation until 1952, then was named head of research and development at Packard.
In the 1960s, DeLorean developed the Catalina and Bonneville for General Motors’ Pontiac division. He encouraged the automaker to offer smaller, sleeker models and helped produce the Tempest, Pontiac’s first compact car. DeLorean also premiered the Pontiac GTO, a souped-up hotrod with a V-8 engine, and marketed it to young, affluent men. Dubbed “The Goat,” it was widely acknowledged as one of the first “muscle cars.”
Although DeLorean’s success at GM seemed virtually guaranteed to take him into the higher echelons of the company, he resigned in 1973 to launch the DeLorean Motor Car Co. in Northern Ireland. In the hopes of generating 2,000 new jobs, the British government sank $120 million into the $200 million project. Eight years later, DeLorean’s unpainted, stainless steel sports car hit the streets. The gull-winged DeLorean DMC-12 became a household name after it was featured as a time travel machine in the “Back to the Future” films, but poor reviews and quality control issues kept consumers from buying the vehicle.
At the same time, DeLorean faced serious legal troubles. In 1982, he was arrested in Los Angeles and accused of conspiring to sell 55 pounds of cocaine — worth $24 million — to salvage his business. DeLorean claimed he was the victim of entrapment and fought the charges in court. Despite the existence of a videotape on which he accepted the delivery of a suitcase full of cocaine, DeLorean was acquitted by a jury in 1984. His company eventually collapsed after producing less than 9,000 cars. DeLorean was cleared of defrauding the company’s investors, as well, yet his legal entanglements forced him to declare bankruptcy in 1999.
During his hey day, DeLorean was known for his playboy lifestyle and flamboyant personality. A workaholic, he reportedly slept for only four hours a night. After his arrest, DeLorean settled down and became a born-again Christian. The former automobile industrialist lived his final years on social security and occasional consulting fees. To honor the automaker, 25 owners of DeLoreans parked their cars in front of the Royal Oak, Mich., funeral home where his memorial service was held.

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