Lee Lacocca - From Mustangs to Margarine

Lido Anthony "Lee" Iacocca, the son of hotdog-selling Italian immigrants, a graduate of Princeton University, an industrial engineer and marketing guru, the driving force behind Ford’s Mustang and Escort models, Ford President and CEO, author, margarine-maker and actor, celebrated his 94th birthday this week.

Perhaps best known for his role in getting the Mustang and Escort projects off the ground, Lee Iacocca’s life has been as varied as it has been long.

After graduating university in 1946, Iacocca began work at Ford. After a short time in engineering he asked to be moved to sales and marketing, where his career took off. He was celebrated for a marketing campaign offering loans on 1956 model year cars with a 20 per cent down payment and $56 in monthly payments for three years.

The campaign went national and Iacocca was summoned to Ford’s Dearborn headquarters, where he quickly moved up through the ranks, eventually being named as Ford president on December 10, 1970. However, there is so much more to the man named by Portfolio magazine as America’s 18th-greatest CEO of all time.

Iacocca co-wrote a number of books, including the incendiary 2007 title Where Have All the Leaders Gone? in which he wrote:
We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, ‘stay the course.’ Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic.

After his wife Mary died due to complications arising from diabetes, Iacocca threw himself in to funding research in to disease, becoming one of the main patrons of pioneering diabetes medical researcher Denise Faustman, and in 2000, he founded Olivio Premium Products, which manufactures food, including the popular margarine-spread, from olive oil. He donates all profits from the company to diabetes research.

In 1986, Iacocca even dabbled with acting, appearing in Sons and Lovers – the twenty-second episode and second season finale of Miami Vice – as a Park Commissioner called Lido, Iacocca’s birth name.

From Mustangs to margarine, Iacocca has excelled at almost everything he turned his hand to. A truly remarkable man. Happy birthday, Lee.

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