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Lee Iacocca's Biography

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Lee Iacocca was born on October 15, 1924 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. His actual name was Lido Anthony Iacocca. In his autobiography, Iacocca points out:

"Over the years a number of journalists have reported (or repeated) that my parents went to Lido Beach in Venice for their honeymoon and that I was named Lido to commemorate that happy week. It's a wonderful story, except for one thing: it's not true."

Lee Iacocca's father owned a hot-dog restaurant called the Orpheum Wiener House. He also expanded into other businesses, but the Depression was tough on the Iacocca family and Lee has said that the experience had a lasting influence on him.

In August 1946 Iacocca started at Ford as a student engineer. In 1956 he made a major breakthrough. Sales of Fords were poor, and Iacocca's district, Philadelphia had the worst performance of all, but he introduced a lower down payment and an easier payment schedule for the customer. Within three months Philadelphia's figures moved from worst to best. Iacocca was promoted to district manager of Washington, D.C.

On September 29, 1956 Iacocca married Mary McCleary and for many years things went well. Lee Iacocca quickly rose up the ranks at Ford and, in 1976, Iacocca was earning $970,000 per annum as number two in the number two company (more than the chairman of Genral Motors). He cites his "greed" and the huge salary as one of the reasons why he put up with an increasingly antagonistic, Henry Ford II. Eventually in 1978 Ford and Iacocca parted company.

Iacocca became president (1978) and then chairman (1979) of the Chrysler Corporation. He transformed the ailing company. To do so he famously needed to take out a $1.2billion loan.

There is an irony in this. His father was always warning Lee as a boy not to get into hock, and if he ever borrowed anything, even 20 cents, to write it down and not forget to pay it back. As Iacocca wrote in his autobiography:

"I often wondered how he would have reacted if he'd lived long enough to see me go into hock in 1981 to keep the Chrysler Corporation in business. This was for a lot more than 20 cents: the total came to $1.2 billion. Although I recalled my father's advice, I had a funny feeling this was one loan I'd remember even without writing it down."

In 1984, Lee Iacocca established the Iacocca Foundation in 1984 in honour of his wife, Mary, who died from complications of type 1 diabetes. The Foundation receives all royalties from both of Mr. Iacocca's best-selling books, Iacocca (1984), and Talking Straight (1988).

The Iacocca Foundation has given more than $20 million to diabetes research.

Lee Iacocca died on 2 July 2019, aged 94.

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