Thursday, September 6, 2012

Who's the oldest CEO you know?

This is a pretty good story from the Wall Street Journal about the owners of the corporation that makes Tootsie Rolls:
Tootsie Roll's Chicago headquarters is a modern-day Willy Wonka factory. Massive puffs of steam billow out of humming machines on the roofs of the gray cinder block and red brick buildings, which sit surrounded by off-kilter "no trespassing" signs. The Gordons haven't granted an interview in years. The company declined repeated interview requests, saying "we have opted to use our quarterly earnings releases as a way to provide continuing updates to all business media at once." 
Mr. Gordon is currently the oldest CEO of a business listed on the New York Stock Exchange or the Nasdaq Stock Market, according to research company S&P Capital IQ. The company's proxy statement in March lists his age as 92, and his wife's as 80. The three non-Gordon members of the Tootsie Roll board ranged in age from 65 to 74, and at least one other top executive is over 70. 
The Gordons have given no hint that they intend to retire and no indication of health problems. "Their age is no concern, none whatsoever," said Jerry Schmutzler, 70, who works the midnight shift in the boiler room of Tootsie Roll's Chicago factory. The company also has plants in four other states, as well as Canada and Mexico.
92 seems pretty aged, but what do I know? Assuming that Mr. Gordon is still of sound mind (and that the board is not completely toothless), the company seems to be rolling along just fine. (And kudos to having a 70-year-old boiler man -- that's the heart of America, right there.)

Who's the oldest chemistry-related leader/CEO? A few years ago, I received a return phone message from Reuben Rieke, after I called to order some material. I estimate that he's in his early 70s, but that's just a guess. Emeritus professors hang around departments for a very long time, but that's very different than being a CEO or a senior manager.

Readers, who's the oldest chemist that you've worked with?


  1. George Schweitzer at U of Tennessee is ancient and still working - I know you're not looking for emeritus profs who haven't done research in years, but he has four 2012 publications according to the link below.

  2. As much as I love the old guys, I feel quite strongly that emeritus profs shouldnt be allowed post docs, or to win research grants. There isnt enough money to go around as it is, its simply not fair for those of us just starting out. They've had their time, sorry but hang around the dept all you want and review papers etc but they should be there to support the young faculty, not continue to compete with them.

    On a matter more closely aligned with your post CJ, Prof. Phil Parsons at Sussex University (UK) used to employ emeritus John Cornforth as a postdoc.. SIR John Cornforth Nobel laureate no less. Apparently he wanted to mess around in the lab, and this was the only way of legally allowing him to do so. I guess he was well into his 70s at the time

  3. I used to work for a guy in his mid-70s. I know for a fact that him being a total douche was not age-related.

  4. My old supervisor Ron Grigg at Leeds University will have just turned 77. Last I checked he still had 3-4 phd students kicking around in the lab.

  5. He certainly does, although I think they might be nominally someone else's students. He's a pretty remarkable guy - chose chemistry over professional football back in the fifties when he was a stores boy at, I think, Glaxo, then got a nightschool degree and worked all the way up from there. He could probably still have beat us all over 100 metres when I worked with him five years ago.

  6. That was meant to be a reply to Anon 12:41...

  7. One of my colleagues retired from full time employment last January aged 82, another of similar vintage is still here. Both are chemists who spent all of their working life at the bench which was their life force. The former died just six months after his retirement, but I suspect it would have been much sooner if he'd been forced out.