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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.”