Small-town Canadian a big-time player in the US




1-8-1927 19-11-2011


JOHN Smale, who as chief executive led Procter & Gamble through a period of extraordinary growth and then, as chairman of General Motors, helped engineer a turnaround, has died of pulmonary fibrosis at his home in Cincinnati. He was 84.

Smale ran Procter & Gamble from 1981 until 1990. During his tenure the company strengthened its position internationally, pushing aggressively into Eastern Europe and Asia. He also oversaw a series of major acquisitions, including the $1.2 billion purchase of Richardson-Vicks in 1985. The largest deal in Procter & Gamble's history at the time, it brought the company well-known brands including Vicks cold medicine, Olay skin care products and Pantene shampoo.

Smale started with the company's toilet goods division in 1952 and earned his stripes managing Procter & Gamble's new Crest toothpaste brand. He persuaded the American Dental Association to endorse the toothpaste, a pioneering agreement at the time.

There were missteps, including a failed push into soft drinks and orange juice. But over his nine-year tenure, Procter & Gamble's overall revenue doubled to more than $US24 billion profits also doubled to $US1.6 billion.

In 1982, while Smale was still chief executive at Procter & Gamble, General Motors named him to its board. Ten years later, Smale and the GM board led a coup, ousting Robert Stempel as chairman and chief executive. Smale became chairman, and John Smith jnr the chief executive. During his tenure as GM's chairman, which lasted until his retirement in 1995, Smale helped rescue the car maker from the brink of bankruptcy and returned it to profitability. He also put in place management techniques from Procter & Gamble, streamlining GM's balkanised management structure and pushing for more forceful marketing of its brands.

Smale also served on several other corporate boards, including those of JPMorgan and Eastman Kodak.

Smale and his twin sister, Joy, were born in Listowel, Ontario, and grew up in Elmhurst, Illinois. Their father was a travelling salesman for the Marshall Field's department store chain.

He graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1949. While there, he helped pay for his education by writing two how-to books Party 'Em Up and Party 'Em Up Some More that he sold to university students around the United States.

His wife of 56 years, the former Phyllis Weaver, died in 2006. His twin sister died in 2000. He is survived by four children and five grandchildren.

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