Robert E. Mercer, the former chairman and CEO of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., passed away on Friday at the age of 96. According to his son, Robert G. Mercer, his father died of natural causes.
Mercer’s career at Goodyear lasted a lengthy 42 years. He famously defended the Akron, OH-based tire maker from an attempted takeover in 1986 by European financier Sir James Goldsmith. In fact, Goodyear stock was rapidly acquired by Goldsmith in an attempt to increase the share price and sell off its pieces which is known as a “corporate raid.”
“He wanted to buy it, break it up and sell it off,” said Mercer in 2011. “That’s where the money was.”
After Mercer fought off the corporate raid, keeping Goodyear in Akron, he handled corporate restructuring. Mercer became an outspoken critic of “Wall Street culture,” which he viewed as putting short-term shareholder gains over the long-term development of the corporation.
“Goodyear had 46,000 shareholders, 132,000 employees and several million customers,” Mercer told The Plain Dealer in 2011. “They were telling us we had to put our shareholders first. I believed we owed it to our employees and customers to put them first.”
Early Life of Robert Mercer
Robert Mercer was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey. His father, George Mercer, was a Ford dealer and police commissioner in Roselle Park, New Jersey, a New York City suburb.
Mercer was good enough at baseball during grade school to earn a baseball scholarship to Ohio University. However, he left after just one semester when the U.S. joined World War II. In addition, Mercer and his twin brother, Richard, both enlisted in the Navy. Furthermore, he attended officer candidate school at Yale University and received an officer’s commission where he served on the USS Cleveland. Mercer graduated from Yale in 1946 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Mercer joined Goodyear as a salesman in 1947, selling conveyor belts and industrial hoses. He became company president in 1978, chief operating officer in 1980, and chairman and CEO in 1983.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that the Goodyear of today would not exist without Bob Mercer,” claims Rich Kramer, current Goodyear chairman, president and chief executive officer. “He not only saved the company from an uncertain fate but used the experience to reposition us for growth in the future. Bob added to the legacy of a great American company and planted the seeds for the Goodyear of the future. Everyone in the Goodyear family owes Bob Mercer a debt of gratitude and appreciation.”
[H/T USA Today]