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C. Robert Kidder, 64 years old when appointed Chairman of the Board of the future Chrysler Group, has been CEO of Duracell and Borden, and is still CEO of private equity fund 3Stone Advisors. He was a founding partner of Borden Capital Management Partners, lead director of Morgan Stanley, director of Microvi Biotech, a board member of Schering Plough (pharmaceuticals), Ohio University, and the Columbus Children’s Hospital, and president of the Wexner Center Foundation.
Before joining the ranks of the corporate aristocracy, Kidder worked with high-end consulting firm McKinsey & Company, naming Ford as one of his clients. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a BS degree in industrial engineering, and from Iowa State with an MS in industrial economics; from college he joined the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps, where he wrote the Navy's policy on capital-project and cost-benefit justification.
From the Navy, Kidder moved to McKinsey, then became the Senior Vice President, Planning and Development for Dart Industries, working on strategic planning, merger and acquisitions and capital budgeting. Dart Industries acquired Duracell in 1978, and merged with Kraft in 1980, the same year he moved up to Vice President of Planning and Development for Duracell; in 1981, he became Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Duracell. Kidder became president of Duracell USA in 1982, and president of Duracell, Inc., in 1984.
In 1988, as CEO, Kidder and his management team led a leveraged buyout of Duracell from Kraft, the parent company, with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. Three years afterwards, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Kidder took the company public. His performance as CEO of Duracell appears to have resulted in large profits and cash flow, with lower debt. Duracell was, in the mid-1990s, the largest maker of alkaline batteries, dominating the U.S. market.
In 1995, Kidder stepped down from his CEO role and remained the board chairman, working on planning. The Times quoted an analyst as saying that Kidder was “personable, driven, hard working.” He intended to retire in Santa Barbara with his wife, Mary. However, Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts, & Company, which had taken over Borden, asked twice for Kidder to take over. Desribed by the New York Times as “an aggressive marketer” and “longtime consumer-products executive,” Kidder took over Borden after years of losses and restructurings, and stayed until 2003.
Kidder led Borden to split into new companies, each carrying its own board, structure, and policies; all but Borden Chemical and Elmer’s Products were eventually sold off.
Kidder became a principal of Stonehenge Partners, a private investment firm, in 2004, and stayed until 2006, when he became CEO of 3Stone Advisors. He has also been a director of Dean Witter, General Signal, and Electronic Data Systems.
Kidder was selected by the U.S. Treasury Department to be on Chrysler’s board; he will help select other board members of the future Chrysler Group LLC.
Kidder’s past salaries were reported by Forbes. In 2008, he was paid $229,500 for his part-time work at Schering-Plough and $375,000 for his part-time work at Morgan Stanley. In 2007, he gave $2,000 to Republican Congressman Tiberi; he and his wife gave large donations to the Republican Pioneer PAC (a fundraising committee for Congressman David Hobson, R-OH; Hobson was named Citizens Against Government Waste “Porker of the Month” for earmarking around $2 million for a public restroom and gas station.)
Kidder was a member of George W. Bush for President and Bob Ney for Congress. Republican Congressman Bob Ney eventually took a plea bargain, admitting to fraud, bribery, and violating lobbying restrictions, serving 27 months after his term in Congress ended.
As for hobbies, Kidder collects contemporary art, listens to David Bowie, Alanis Morissette, and Peter Gabriel, and plays with electronics including a PC, Mac, and Blackberry.
Chrysler 1904-2018 •
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