CINCINNATI (Reuters) - Former Procter & Gamble chief executive John G. Smale, credited with transforming the two major international companies he led during his career, died on Saturday at age 84.
Smale served as chief executive officer of Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble from 1981 to 1990. Under his watch, the company doubled sales to more than $24 billion and earnings to $1.6 billion, and expanded into 15 new product categories and 23 new countries.
Smale, who also served as chairman, started with the company in 1952 working in dental products. He was credited with persuading the American Dental Association to endorse Crest, then a new product.
Crest went on to become one of the company’s best-selling brands, helping catapult Smale into the limelight, according to Procter & Gamble’s website.
In addition to his lauded business sense, those who worked with Smale inside the company and out remembered him as a kind, unpretentious man.
“The man’s character was defined by all the things character is defined by: his wisdom, his courage, his persistent commitment to doing what’s right for the longer term — absolutely right down the line. Never compromising,” said John Pepper, Procter & Gamble’s CEO from 1995 to 1999.
“John was the single most inspiring leader I have ever known. Period,” Pepper told Reuters.
After Smale retired from Procter & Gamble, General Motors’ board picked him to lead that struggling company, and he helped get the automobile manufacturer profitable within two years, Pepper said.
Smale served as chairman of the General Motors board from 1992 to 1995, according to that company’s website. He continued to serve on the GM board until 2002.
Born in Ontario, Canada, he graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, near Cincinnati, and later returned to his adopted hometown of Cincinnati to become one of its most respected business and civic leaders.
“He was one of the most decent people,” said Charlie Luken, former Cincinnati mayor. “When his city asked him to, he stepped up.”
In 1987, Luken asked Smale to chair a committee examining problems with the city’s aging infrastructure. The resulting plan was so comprehensive and successful that it became known as the Smale Commission and continues to have a lasting effect.
“He loved his city and was he was always there,” Luken said. “Any time I would ask him to do something he would say, ‘Is there anything else I can do?’”
Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston