WILLIAM C. DURANT Biography - Bussiness people and enterpreneurs

 
 

Biography » bussiness people and enterpreneurs » william c durant

WILLIAM C. DURANT

C. Durant was born on December 8th, 1861 in Boston Mass. He quit high school           
to begin work in his grandfather's Flint, Michigan, lumberyard. By 1885 he             
had partnered with Josiah Dallas Dort to organize the Coldwater Road Cart               
Company, which would become a leading manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages.           
By 1890, Durant-Dort Carriage Company was the nation's largest carriage                 
company, producing approximately 50,000 horse-drawn vehicles a year.                   
                                                                                         
In 1904, Billy Durant was approached by James Whiting of the Buick Company             
to promote his automobiles. Whiting persuaded Durant to join Buick as                   
General Manager. In his first act as Buick's GM, Durant moved the Buick                 
assembly operations briefly to Jackson, and then began construction on a               
large Buick complex in Flint. In three short years Buick led the U.S.                   
automobile production by manufacturing 8,820 vehicles. Between 1904 and                 
1908, Durant was made Buick's president and established several essential               
parts and accessory companies such as Weston-Mott and Champion Ignition                 
Company                                                                                 
                                                                                         
By 1908 the top four auto producers in the U.S. were Buick, Reo (headed by             
Ransom E. Olds), Maxwell -Briscoe, (headed by Benjamin and Frank Briscoe)               
and Ford (headed by Henry Ford). Benjamin Briscoe wanted all four producers             
to merge and form one large company. Negotiations began in New York with J.             
P. Morgan's son-in-law, Herbert Satterlee, and ended when Ford demanded cash           
instead of stock. and along with Reo pulled out of the deal.                           
                                                                                         
Still determined to start this new auto company, Durant, at Satterlee's                 
suggestion, dropped the proposed name "International Motor Car Company" and   
                                                                                         
settled on "General Motors" as the new name for his company.                 
                                                                                         
On September 16, 1908, Durant incorporated General Motors of New Jersey (GM)           
with a capital investment of $2,000. Within 12 days the company issued                 
stocks                                                                                 
that generated over $12,000,000 in cash. General Motors then purchased Buick           
with stock. Six weeks later, GM acquired the Olds Corporation of Lansing,               
                                                                                         
Michigan.                                                                               
                                                                                         
Next, Durant completed a deal with financially troubled Oakland Company.               
Oakland was located in Pontiac, Michigan, and would later be renamed -- you             
                                                                                         
guessed it -- Pontiac. Finally, Durant sought to acquire Cadillac Motor Car             
Company from the Leland father/son team. The Lelandís did not want stock and           
                                                                                         
like Henry Ford, would only settle for cash to the tune of $4.5 million.               
                                                                                         
GM could not raise this amount of money, but Buick, the cash cow, could. So,           
Cadillac was bought with Buick funds, thereby becoming a subsidiary of                 
Buick.                                                                                 
Eventually, though, GM purchased Cadillac from Buick. During this same                 
period, Durant also acquired many truck and parts supply companies,                     
including AC-Delco,                                                                     
which he helped form with Albert Champion and still bears his initials                 
today.                                                                                 
                                                                                         
In an 18 month burst of aggressive wheeling and dealing, Durant purchased,             
acquired or incurred a substantial interest in almost 30 auto makers.                   
However,                                                                               
all this wheeling and dealing came at a price. Durant became financially               
overextended and consequently, lost control of GM to banking interests in               
1910.                                                                                   
                                                                                         
Undeterred, Durant partnered up with Louis Chevrolet to form Chevrolet Motor           
Company in 1911 and used the profits from Chevrolet to regain control of GMC           
in                                                                                     
1915. However, Durant's management style once again proved troublesome and             
he resigned in 1920 under an agreement with, then GM president Pierre Du               
Pont in                                                                                 
exchange for Du Pont's paying off Durant's debts.                                       
                                                                                         
Determined to regain his place in the automotive marketplace, Durant formed             
Durant Motors in 1921 and produced a line of cars bearing his name for the             
next                                                                                   
10 years. However, a declining market and the Great Depression ended                   
Durant's automotive career in 1933.                                                     
                                                                                         
Durant continued to create innovative ideas, but he no longer had the money             
to execute his plans. Near the end of his life, he operated several bowling             
alleys in Flint near the Buick complex. Durant was not bitter, nor did he               
regret his actions. Instead, he put his energy into new ventures. He                   
believed bowling alleys were the next big thing - every family in America               
would spend their leisure time at bowling alleys. This venture too, proved             
to be unsuccessful and marked the end of long string of personal tragedies             
and failures that plagued Durant since the fall of the Durant Motors in                 
1933.                                                                                   
                                                                                         
From 1934 until his death, Durant dabbled in Stocks, Politics, and Social               
Issues. None of these later ventures reflected his former industrious                   
thinking and he faded from public life. On March 18, 1947, William Durant               
died in New York City, the same year as Henry Ford, thus, marking the end of           
a remarkable era in automotive excellence.