The Unseen Power: Public Relations, a History

By Scott M. Cutlip | Go to book overview

Chapter 21
Earl Newsom and the Auto Giants: Ford and GM

Section 1: THE FORD MOTOR COMPANY AND YOUNG HENRY

When Edsel Ford, who held the somewhat empty title of president of the Ford Motor Company, died in May 1943, the two top contenders to replace him were Harry Bennett, Henry Ford's longtime right-hand man and union buster, and Charles E. Sorensen, vice-president in charge in manufacturing. Bennett, whom old Henry admired, was the founder's choice. Learning this, Mrs. Edsel Ford, who despised Bennett, moved with Mrs. Henry Ford's help to make her 25-year-old son, Henry II, the new president. On June 8, 1943, less than a month after Edsel's death, Bennett had maneuvered himself into being appointed Sorensen's "assistant for administrative problems." But Mrs. Edsel Ford carried the day, and her eldest son was made president of the giant corporation. He assumed the presidency in September 1945. The company that young Henry took over was not dying in the opinion of Ford executive, Jack Davis, "it was already dead and rigor mortis was setting in."

Young Ford came to this awesome task with no public reputation. He had lived the life of a rich playboy who enjoyed parties more than books. He had attended the Detroit University School and then gone to Hotchkiss, an East Coast boarding school that prepares students for Yale. He had been dismissed from Yale University because he had left the bill for a term paper in the paper when he submitted it to his professor. Henry II later scornfully denied that he was stupid enough to leave the bill of a local cramming agency in the paper. He admitted that he was not much of a student, in prep

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