The Man Who Saved Fender: A Tribute to Bill Schultz

By Fliegler, Ritchie | Guitar Player, January 2007 | Go to article overview

The Man Who Saved Fender: A Tribute to Bill Schultz


Fliegler, Ritchie, Guitar Player


Sadly, as Fender was celebrating its diamond anniversary, the company lost one of its iconic leaders, William "Bill" Schultz on September 21, 2006. He was 80 years old, and had battled cancer for 17 years. In 1985, Schultz led an employee buyout of Fender from then-owner CBS--a regime that had put the Fender brand into a steady decline. Under Schultz's impassioned and visionary leadership, Fender was restored to its former glory and then some.

I'D LIKE TO OFFER SOME THOUGHTS ON BILL SCHULTZ, and to attempt to explain what he meant to those of us here at Fender who were lucky enough to bask in his bright light. I'm not the most senior, or longest-standing Fender employee--and others were closer to Bill outside of work--but we shared a preference for Manhattans. That is, until he went over to martinis. A few months before Bill's passing, Fender Senior Vice President of Marketing Richard McDonald and I met him for lunch. Bill ordered a martini, and I called him on it. He explained that it was easier to hide the after effects of vodka as opposed to whiskey, and that his doctor and Mary Jane (his wife of more than 60 years) told him to stop drinking. So here we were shooting the breeze with our mentor while he's sneaking a guilty pleasure--a bunch of musicians sneaking a drink. Imagine that!

Those of us who knew Bill could see things weren't going well the past few months, and we all dealt with this in our own fashion. For most of us, this meant making the most of our moments together--getting that last tidbit of advice, that last scolding, or maybe even a pat on the back--so they were inhaled and savored like a fine bouquet.

Bill was a complex man. …

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