Founder, chairman, chief executive officer, and president, FedEx Corporation
Born: August 11, 1944, in Marks, Mississippi.
Education: Yale University, BA, 1966.
Family: Son of Frederick C. (businessman) and Sally (Wallace) Smith; married Linda Black Grisham, 1969 (divorced 1977); married Dianne Avis; children: ten (two from first marriage).
Career: Ark Airlines, 1969–1971, owner; Federal Express Corporation, 1971–, founder and president; 1975–, chairman, president, and chief executive officer.
Awards: Peter F. Drucker Strategic Leadership Award, 1997; named "CEO of the Year" for 2004 by Chief Executive magazine.
Address: FedEx Corporation, 942 Shady Grove Road, Memphis, Tennessee 38120-4117; http://www.fedex.com.
■ In 1971 Frederick Wallace (Fred) Smith came up with a revolutionary idea: delivering packages reliably overnight. With the creation of Federal Express Corporation, Smith not only offered an alternative to the mail and more traditional and slower delivery services, but he also created an industry that almost single-handedly changed the way business was conducted. In the process, Smith's company became the first American business to earn $10 billion in profits. By 2004 FedEx was delivering to 210 countries using over six hundred aircraft, 46,000 vehicles, and 141,000 employees. But Federal Express and Smith were not just about providing fast and dependable deliveries to clients worldwide. At the root of the company's success was Smith's tried and true philosophy: people, service, profit (P-S-P). To that end, Smith worked hard at being accessible to his employees and clients with a management style that combined vision, risk-taking, a sense of community, and a tough-minded approach.
AP/Wide World Photos
Smith was born in Marks, Mississippi, on August 11, 1944. The younger of two sons, Smith was named after his father, an entrepreneur and businessman who established the Dixie Greyhound Bus Lines, later a part of Greyhound Bus Lines. To further supplement the family fortune, the senior Smith and his older son established the Toddle House Restaurant chain, which offered Southern-style cooking at locations throughout the United States. In 1948, when Smith was only four years old, his father died. Fortunately for the family, Smith senior had made enough money to ensure his family—which now consisted of a wife, two sons, and two daugh ters—a comfortable existence. However, it would be a long time before the children would see any of their father's money. Concerned that his children would squander their fortunes and waste their lives and talents, Smith senior had his money placed into a trust fund to be released to the children upon their 21st birthdays.
From early childhood, Smith was troubled by a birth defect known as Calve Perthes disease, a peculiar form of childhood arthritis of the hips caused by a temporary loss of blood supply to the hip. The ailment was such that Smith spent much of his early years on crutches and in braces to stabilize his hip joint sockets. However, by the time he was 10, Smith had out grown the disease. Smith attended Memphis University Prep, where he participated in athletics and was an excellent student. He also developed a keen interest in the American Civil War. But Smith's true passion was flying; by the age of 15 he was learning the ropes while operating a crop duster. In time he became known as a skilled amateur pilot. Smith's business acumen started early; while in high school, he and a group of friends founded the Ardent Record Company, a small recording studio that later went on to become a legitimate company. In 1962 Smith left Memphis to attend Yale University.
THE ROAD TO FEDEX