Former Procter & Gamble CEO John Smale dies at 84

CINCINNATI (AP) — Former Procter & Gamble Co. chief executive and chairman John G. Smale, who expanded the consumer products maker with a major acquisition and a push into China and other emerging markets overseas, died Saturday in Cincinnati. He was 84.

A spokesman for the Cincinnati-based company didn’t immediately give details about how Smale died.

Smale led P&G from 1981 to 1990 and was the seventh chief executive of the 174-year-old company. He also was chairman of General Motors Co. from 1992 to 1995 and was a board member of the automaker for more than two decades, beginning in 1982.

Smale was born in Canada and graduated from Miami University in Ohio in 1949. He joined P&G in 1952, working for what was then called the Toilet Goods division. He rose through the company, becoming president in charge of all U.S. operations in 1974 and chief executive in 1981. He added the chairmanship in 1986.

During his tenure, Smale moved P&G businesses into new markets in huge developing countries such as China, setting the stage for the P&G’s rapid growth in Asia in recent years. P&G also acquired Richardson-Vicks, which broadened the P&G portfolio to include Pantene shampoo, Olay skin cream and Vicks cough medicines, which are major brands today.

As CEO, Smale pushed P&G to become more efficient, speeding up development of new products and getting them to market.

He also is credited with boosting the Crest toothpaste brand, increasing its market share against rival Colgate-Palmolive’s popular Colgate toothpaste. Crest gained American Dental Association approval and promoted itself with a campaign that became an advertising classic: “Look Mom, no cavities!”

“John brought together wisdom and courage, concern for people, and commitment to the long term in a manner I’ve never seen exceeded,” said John E. Pepper, P&G CEO in from 1995 to 1999. “He was quite simply the most effective executive I’ve ever known.”

Smale married in 1950, and he and his wife, Phyllis, had four children. He courted his wife, who died previously, when he attended Miami and she attended the Western College for women, both in Oxford, Ohio.

Smale’s ancestry was German, but he was born in Listowel, Ontario. He retired to Florida.

He served on the boards of several other companies, including Eastman Kodak and J.P. Morgan & Co. He received honorary doctorates from Miami, and several other schools, and had maintained his ties with Miami.

In a 2009 interview for the school’s “Miamian” magazine, Smale credited his wife’s support with enabling him to immerse himself into work he enjoyed, often staying on the job late at night and on weekends.

“Life would be awful long if you were working at something you didn’t like to do,” he said.

“I never really envisioned that I was going to end up as chief executive of Procter & Gamble,” Smale told the magazine. “That’s probably a good thing because it seems to me that if you’re focused on making a success out of what you’re doing, then, certainly at a company like P&G, you could assume that your personal success is going to take care of itself.”

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