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Former GM Chairman John Smale Dead at 84

Long-time chief of P&G wanted to remake GM as a consumer goods company.

by on Nov.21, 2011

Former GM Chairman John Smale.

He was often seen as the outside interloper within the Detroit community, but when it came to marketing consumer goods perhaps no one was the more consummate insider than John Smale, the one-time junior executive in the toilet goods department who eventually rose to become CEO of consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble.

Smale, who died over the weekend at 84, had a second, if seemingly unlikely, career as  the non-executive chairman at General Motors, where he oversaw an aggressive effort to transform the increasingly troubled automaker using a consumer goods model borrowed from P&G.

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A workaholic who seldom relaxed before 10 or 11 PM – even on weekends, Smale once told an interviewer from a magazine at his alma mater, Miami University in Ohio, that he was “having a really good time” only when he was “totally immersed in what I was doing.”


Former GM CEO Bob Stempel Dead at 77

Ousted exec found life after GM.

by on May.10, 2011

Former GM CEO Bob Stempel, shown here in 2003 demonstrating a breakthrough by his new firm, ECD.

Bob Stempel’s good fortune came at an inopportune time.

Trained as an engineer and hailed as the “car guy” General Motors desperately needed when he was promoted to chairman and CEO, in 1990, Stempel’s tenure at the helm of what was then the world’s largest automaker lasted just two years before he fell victim to a boardroom coup.

But the amiable executive discovered there were plenty of opportunities after GM, and despite declining health continued to work in a variety of auto and technology-related ventures right until his death, over the weekend, at 77.

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Born in Trenton, NJ on July 15, 1933, Bob Stempel’s first love was engineering, and he received a bachelor’s degree in the field from Massachusett’s  Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  But he also recognized that engineers could only go so far in the automotive world, so Stempel landed a master’s degree in business from Michigan State University in 1970.

In 1958, three years after getting his mechanical engineering degree, Stempel landed a job as a senior detailer with GM’s Oldsmobile division.  Back then, the automaker’s various divisions operated as virtually autonomous fiefdoms, and Stempel remained with Opel for a number of years and through a variety of assignments.