WOOSTER, OhioStanley C. Gault, former head of both Goodyear and Rubbermaid Inc., died June 29 at age 90.
Although he was chairman of Akron-based Good-year for just five years, from 1991-96, Mr. Gault is credited with helping it shift from a manufacturing-driven company to one with a marketing-backed consumer focus.
The commitment to helping our customers grow their businesses started with Stan, Goodyear said in a statement, Emphasizing the importance of sales and marketing in our company started with Stan.
Above all, Stan Gault realized the strength of the Goodyear brand began with its dedicated people. He was the first to make everyone who worked at Goodyear feel part of the company by referring to us as 'associates.'
Mr. Gault also helped overhaul the company through instituting a Total Quality Culture.
We accept the principle that regardless of how well we think we're doing things today, we will need to find ways to do those same things better in the future, he said in an interview at the time he announced his retirement from Good-year in late 1995.
Mr. Gault joined the tire maker in June 1991 just six weeks after retiring as chairman and CEO of Rubbermaid. Already a member of Good-year's board of directors, he was persuaded by fellow board members to take over the reins at the tire maker, still struggling financially five years after fending off a failed takeover attempt by Sir James Goldsmith. Mr. Gault was the first outsider named to lead the firm since the 1920s.
I accepted the Goodyear invitation after declining it several times, Mr. Gault said in a 1998 interview. My decision to join Goodyear was 98-percent-plus emotional.
One thing Mr. Gault provided was a fresh perspective for Goodyear, according to industry observers at the time. He wondered why the iconic Goodyear blimps were a drab gray, and he had them re-made into bright blue and yellow flying billboards for the company.
He looked at a developmental water-channel tire, and led to the company taking the industry by storm with the Aquatred. And he took the somewhat controversial path of leading Good-year into selling its brand-name tires in mass market channels such as Sears Automotive stores.
The results clearly showed up on Good-year's bottom line. During his tenure, the company's net income rose to $611 million in 1995 from $96.6 million in 1991; sales rose to $13.2 billion from $10.9 billion; and debt was slashed by more than half.
It was for this performance that Mr. Gault was named Rubber Industry Executive of the Year in 1995 by Rubber & Plastics News, a sister publication of Tire Business, as he stepped down from his CEO post at Goodyear. He also earned the same award from the paper in 1989 when he was Rubbermaid's top executive.
But Mr. Gault didn't want all the praise given to just him. I don't like to claim that I've left any particular legacy, he said in 1998. I would much rather refer to those years as a period where Goodyear associates throughout the world recorded an amazing turnaround with results that outperformed all of our competitors.
He said he saw himself as a leader who strove to set a course to encourage, motivate and inspire confidence in employees, noting: I believe in giving people authority, responsibility and accountability.
I believe in setting tough standards. I believe in hard work. I believe in good reward for high performance. I'm demanding, but I'm equally demanding on myself.
Mr. Gault was born in Wooster, Ohio, in 1926 and grew up in the rural community. After graduating in 1948 from his hometown College of Wooster, he started a 31-year career at General Electric Co. He left GE in 1980 to return to Wooster as CEO of Rubbermaid, a company his father had helped found in 1920.
His tenure at Rubbermaid from 1980-91 had a storybook-like quality, with him ending up there in part because he clashed at GE with another one of industry's best-known CEOs: Jack Welch.
According to the book, At any cost: Jack Welch, General Electric, and the Pursuit of Profit, by Thomas F. O'Boyle, in the 1970s, Messrs. Gault and Welch both were seen as potential successors to then-CEO Reg Jones. The two had been rivals in the 1960sMr. O'Boyle wrote how Mr. Welch tried to get GE Appliances to use then-new Noryl resin in housing for room air conditioners, but Mr. Gault resisted changing from steel.
A decade later both men were high on the list of successors to Mr. Jones. When Mr. Welch was picked for the GE job, Mr. Gault looked elsewhere for his next career move.
Rubbermaid was a household name when Mr. Gault arrived, but he took the company to new heightscutting costs, pushing new product development and shaking up management with a corporate reorganization.
When he joined Rubbermaid, it had sales of $309 million. A decade later, annual sales had quintupled to $1.5 billion. Under Mr. Gault, the company enjoyed an uninterrupted string of consecutive quarters with sales and profit exceeding those of the comparable year-earlier quarters.
In his hometown, Mr. Gault was well known for civic activities. He served on the board of trustees at his alma mater, the College of Wooster, from 1972 to 2000.
Mr. Gault was preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, Flo, and is survived by their three children and six grandchildren.
This article appeared in Rubber & Plastics News, a sister publication of Tire Business. Don Loepp of Plastics News also contributed to this report.