Stanley Gault, one of the best-known CEOs in plastics industry history, died June 29. He was 90.
In plastics, Gault is best known for his 1980-1991 tenure as CEO of Rubbermaid Inc., the Wooster, Ohio-based housewares molder. His tenure at Rubbermaid had a storybook-like quality: Gault came back to his hometown, to a company that had been co-founded by his father, to head the company.
Gault came to Rubbermaid after 31-year tenure at General Electric Co. In fact, Gault ended up in plastics in part because he clashed at his former employer with another one of the plastics 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, Gault and Welch were both seen as potential successors to then-GE CEO Reg Jones. The two had been rivals in the 1960s — O'Boyle wrote how Welch tried to get GE Appliances to use then-new Noryl resin in housing for room air conditioners, but Gault resisted changing from steel.
A decade later both Gault and Welch were high on the list of successors to Jones. When Welch was picked for the GE job, Gault looked elsewhere for his next career move.
Rubbermaid was a household name when Gault arrived, but he took the company to new heights. He cut costs, pushed new product development and shook up management with a corporate reorganization.
When he joined Rubbermaid, the company had sales of $309 million. A decade later, annual sales stood at $1.5 billion. Under Gault, Rubbermaid enjoyed an uninterrupted string of consecutive quarters with sales and profit exceeding those of the comparable year-earlier quarters. The company also was listed for several consecutive years among Fortune magazine's most-admired corporations.
Gault retired as chairman and CEO in 1991, and six weeks later was recruited to take the top spot at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Newell Co. bought Rubbermaid seven years later for $6 billion.
Gault was credited with refocusing and rebuilding Goodyear, which was still reeling from Sir James Goldsmith's takeover attempt. Gault stayed at Goodyear for five years, and he was named Rubber & Plastics News' executive of the year in 1995.
In his hometown, Gault is well known for civic activities. He served on the board of trustees at his alma mater, the College of Wooster, from 1972 to 2000.
Gault was preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, Flo, and is survived by their three children and six grandchildren. Services are pending.