Tyson Foods Legacy Forged On Tough Times, Risk Taking

by George Waldon  on Monday, Jan. 31, 2011 12:00 am  

That led to the company's initial public stock offering in April 1963, 100,000 shares that opened at $10.50. The $1 million IPO would help shore up operation funds and provide cash to expand.

Accountant Needed

Jackson joined Tyson in August 1960 as the "first degreed" accountant on staff after he got wind of a job opening for an office manager/chief accountant.

Jackson remembers meeting with Don Tyson and asking him what his duties would involve.

"His exact words were: 'Hell, I don't know what I need. My accountant told me I needed an accountant.'"

Tyson was referring to the advice of Harry Erwin, a Little Rock accountant who did tax consulting and audit work for the company. The family business was growing and needed more hands on deck.

"Don told everyone his goal was to expand, and by and by, the goal became to be the biggest in the industry," Jackson said.

Internal growth fueled by retained earnings wasn't fast enough to suit Tyson. That meant hitting the acquisition trail to buy capacity and manpower.

The company's first outing involved Garrett Poultry Co. of Rogers, with its processing plant and supporting hatchery and feed mill.

As Jackson recalls, the transaction amounted to about $250,000, with $50,000 down as non-refundable earnest money.

Donald "Buddy" Wray joined Tyson as a field service representative working with growers in 1961 and held a variety of posts with the company over the years. He remembers the tension-filled drama surrounding the IPO.

Wray said John W. Tyson had a lot riding on the deal, which was coming down to the wire.



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