From David to Goliath Sprint Star Brings New Look to Waste Management

By Culloton, Dan | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 18, 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

From David to Goliath Sprint Star Brings New Look to Waste Management

Culloton, Dan, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)

Byline: Dan Culloton Daily Herald Business Writer

About 15 years ago Ronald T. LeMay decided to quit smoking and start running.

Six months later and 45 pounds lighter, he finished his first marathon - 26.2 miles - in three hours and 20 minutes.

"I enjoy testing myself physically, intellectually," LeMay, 51, the new chairman, president and chief executive of Waste Management Inc., said in an interview this week.

LeMay, who used to run 80 miles a week, says his schedule has put a stop to his marathoning. That first race, though, "was a way of testing whether I could stop smoking" and demonstrating "the discipline to do something that I never could understand," he said.

"Before I did it, (it) was incomprehensible to me that someone could run 26 miles," LeMay said. "That intrigued me. That's the sort of thing that motivates me. Things that look to others, or to me, like they're improbable, if not impossible and inexplicable. That's the kind of thing that I'm drawn to."

LeMay, the former second-in-command of the telecommunications company Sprint Corp., has found himself another challenge.

He's not just changing jobs or even switching industries.

He's switching perspectives.

As head of Waste Management, instead of leading the upstart challenger, he will be guiding an embattled market leader.

Westwood, Kan.-based Sprint is often portrayed as the telecommunications industry David, flinging stones at Goliaths like AT&T and MCI.

Waste Management is the world's largest waste services company but is retrenching after building a tottering, far-flung industrial empire in the late 1980s.

LeMay's new office was still nearly bare halfway through his first week with his new employer. He admits he is still learning about Waste Management and its industry, but says there will be no problem with the role reversal.

"I've spent the last seven or eight years taking on the market leader in AT&T. You do that by trying to ascertain what the market leader's strengths and weakness are and understanding how to attack. So, I think I'm in a good position to think about this the way competitors to a market leader would think and formulate plans that envision the plans of attack by our competitors."

Waste Management founder and Chairman Dean L. Buntrock, a giant in the waste industry, has handed his company to someone who has not considered being a garbage man since he was a child enthralled by big garbage trucks in Arkansas.

LeMay was born in Paris, Ark., and raised in Little Rock by a "very strong, loving" family, he said. His mother worked as a bank officer and his father as an insurance salesman. LeMay's dad also was an accomplished athlete who pushed his son to excel in sports, LeMay said.

LeMay played basketball and baseball on a scholarship at Southern Arkansas University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business administration.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

From David to Goliath Sprint Star Brings New Look to Waste Management


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?