Tyson Foods Legacy Forged On Tough Times, Risk Taking

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

"Don's daddy had made a commitment with Mr. Garrett, but he didn't have the capital to do it if the stock sale didn't go through," said Wray, who retired in 2000 as president and chief operating officer of the company.

"He was extremely nervous because the underwriters were taking their easy time getting everything done.

"It got done almost as the deal was going to expire, and Mr. Tyson was worried because he didn't want to lose his earnest money."

"From the time of the IPO onward, it was a rapid pace," Haskell Jackson said. "Don's perspective was, 'While I've got my hook in the water, I'm going to keep fishing.'"

And Tyson never took his hook out of the water when it came to trying to land more acquisitions to build the company.

'Like the Wild, Wild West'

Things were still hopping when Gerald Johnston joined Tyson Foods as a cost and budget manager in 1970.

"It was kind of like the wild, wild West," said Johnston, who later became executive vice president and chief financial officer at the company until his 1996 retirement. "It was a very exciting time, and the opportunities were so great."

Bob Womack joined Tyson in 1970 as a credit manager and held a variety of executive posts, including sales, acquisitions and division president.

By his count, Tyson Foods completed 17 acquisitions during his 24-year stint with the company.

"We were always looking for bolt-on acquisitions, something that would fit our sphere of expertise," Womack said.

Among the acquisition highlights are Holly Farms, $1.4 billion in 1989, and beef giant IBP Inc., $4.6 billion in 2001.



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