Lee Iacocca was an American businessman and philanthropist The Ford Motor Company’s Lee Iacocca is best known for his work on the Continental Mark III, Ford Pinto, and Mustang models during the 1960s. Henry Ford II and Lee had disagreements, and Lee was fired in 1978. Later, after aiding in the revival of the Chrysler Corporation in the 1980s, he was named president and CEO. Iacocca co-wrote books, started an electric bike business, and engaged in charitable work, among other things.
Early Life of Lee Iacocca: A Look at His Childhood
On October 15, 1924, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to Italian-American parents Antonietta and Nicola, Lee Iacocca was born as Lido Anthony Iacocca. Yocco’s Hot Dogs was a restaurant run by his family in the Lehigh Valley.
Iacocca attended Allen High School, where he eventually earned his diploma in 1942. He continued his education at Lehigh University and earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering there. Later, in 1946, Iacocca graduated with a master’s in mechanical engineering from Princeton University.
Lee Iacocca Career: Where Did He Start Working as an Engineer?
Iacocca began working as an engineer for Ford Motor Company soon after receiving his degree from Princeton. His career quickly took off after being transferred to sales and marketing. In particular, his “56 for ’56” campaign, which offered loans on cars from the 1956 model year with a 20% down payment and $56 in monthly payments for three years, made him a household name.
Iacocca rose through the corporate ranks and was named vice president and general manager of Ford in the latter half of 1960. Throughout the decade, he kept moving up the ranks until he was named company president in December 1970.
Iacocca contributed to the design of numerous popular and enduring automobiles while he was employed by Ford, including the Continental Mark III, Ford Pinto, and Mustang. Notably, the 1965 Mustang was introduced with the greatest degree of success since the 1927 Model A. Iacocca contributed to the introduction of the Mercury Cougar and Mercury Marquis in the late 1960s, which helped to revitalize the Mercury brand. Iacocca was let go in the summer of 1978 despite the company’s enormous success due to disagreements with his superior Henry Ford II.
Rebuilding Chrysler: How Did Lee Save Chrysler?
Due in large part to the recalls of its Plymouth Volare and Dodge Aspen vehicles as well as its loss-making European division, the Chrysler Corporation came dangerously close to going bankrupt in the late 1970s. Iacocca accepted the offer after being courted by the company and set out to completely rebuild Chrysler. He first asked for and received a loan guarantee from the US Congress in order to do this.
In 1981, Chrysler went on to release the Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries, two small, reasonably priced, front-wheel drive vehicles that were incredibly successful. Iacocca also re-debuted the opulent Imperial, outfitted with modern technology like a digital dashboard. He also hired several former Ford employees and started working on a line of redesigned minivans known as “mini-maxes,” which led to the creation of the enormously popular Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan in 1983.
Iacocca helped Chrysler acquire the American Motors Corporation, which had the successful Jeep division, in 1987. The well-liked Grand Cherokee, which was released in 1992, the same year Iacocca left his position as president and CEO of Chrysler, was a result of this acquisition. Iacocca nevertheless collaborated with wealthy businessman Kirk Kerkorian in a failed hostile takeover attempt of the company in 1995. He later started working as a Chrysler salesman in 2005, four years before the company went bankrupt.
Lee Iacocca’s Other Business Venture
Iacocca’s involvement in business extended beyond the automobile industry. He joined the MGM Grand board of directors in 1993 and established a merchant bank to finance gaming-related business ventures. Iacocca established the food company Olivio Premium Products in the same year.
Later in the decade, he joined the boards of directors of restaurant chain Koo Koo Roo and casino developer and operator Full House Resorts. Iacocca also established an organization by the same name that specialized in the creation and promotion of electric bikes. He became the CEO of EV Global Motors at to end the 1990s.
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Lee Iacocca as a Book Author
Iacocca co-authored an autobiography with William Novak in 1984, and it became the best-selling non-fiction hardback book of both that year and the following year. Later, in 1988, he published “Talking Straight,” a book of American propaganda that he co-wrote with Sonny Kleinfeld. “Where Have All the Leaders Gone?” was co-authored by Catherine Whitney and was Iacocca’s last book to be published.
Charity by Lee Iacocca
Iacocca oversaw the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, a charitable organization that raised money for the preservation and renovation of the named landmarks. After his wife died from diabetes, he started actively supporting research into the disease. Iacocca also served as the chairman of the Nu Skin Enterprises program Nourish the Children.
Personal Life of Lee Iacocca: How He Died?
Iacocca got married three times in total. In 1956, he married Mary McCleary, his first wife. They had two daughters together. McCleary died in 1983 as a result of complications from type 1 diabetes.
Iacocca then wed Peggy Johnson in 1986, but the following year he had their union dissolved. In 1991, he got married to Darrien Earle, his third and last wife. They split up in 1994. Iacocca died of complications from Parkinson’s disease in July 2019 at his home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel Air. Age-wise, he was 94.
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Real estate of Lee Iacocca
Lee invested $4.25 million in a house in Bel-Air, Los Angeles, in 1993. An 11,000-square-foot house is part of the property, which is located close to the Hotel Bel-Air and the Bel-Air Country Club. Lee made arrangements for a side gate to connect his property to the upscale hotel, enabling him to walk there and back whenever he liked. Lee’s surviving daughters listed the house for $26 million in January 2020. In June 2022, they marketed the house for $27,7 million.
One of the most well-known figures in the automobile industry is still Lee Iacocca. In addition to revitalizing and leading the multi-million dollar Chrystler Corporations, he rose to fame following the creation of the Ford Mustang and Pinto. The businessman and philanthropist had a career that lasted over 50 years and an estimated net worth of $100 million. Due to his wealth and contributions, he was recognized as the 18th greatest American CEO of all time prior to his passing in July 2019.
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