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14  CURRENT BIOGRAPHY

[[image - photograph of Ernest R. Breedh, seated at desk]]
[[caption]] ERNEST R. BREECH [[/caption]]
[[photo credit]] Wide World [[/photo credit]]

its output; within two years, it had multiplied its annual gross, from $40,000,000 to one billion dollars.

"As president of Bendix Aviation Corporation, selling both to Ford and General Motors, and as top dog in a key company whose importance in defense production was vital, Ernie Breech had arrived," commented Look magazine (June 30, 1952). On June 30, 1946 Breech resigned from Bendix and severed his remaining connections with GM to become director and executive vice-president of the Ford Motor Company. "Working with young Henry Ford 2d, president of Ford," Business Week observed (May 25, 1946), "Breech will correlate the strenuous efforts the company is making in production, engineering, development, and sales to regain the top sales position in the industry."

Since the end of World War II the Ford company had been losing an estimated $68,000,000 annually (Fortune, April, 1950). Upon assuming the presidency of the company, Henry Ford 2d, grandson of the founder, had introduced some order into its affairs, and inaugurated some reforms, but the task of reorganization turned out to be too massive and too complicated for a young and relatively inexperienced executive.

"Breech, it seems in retrospect," in Robert Coughlan's words, "had been training all his life for the job" that Ford offered him in 1946. Ford "had heard of Breech and knew a little about his record as a free-wheeling executive and trouble shooter at GM. Meeting him, he liked him." Later he "invited him to take management of Ford and remodel it on the GM pattern. Breech was both flattered and horrified: he had a pretty good idea of Ford's troubles. He politely turned down the offer. But he did agree to study the company. . . . Henry renewed his offer. Breech signed a ten-year contract giving him the extreme latitude he knew he needed and reported for work on July 1, 1946."

When he joined Ford, Breech stated, the company was "an awkward, misshapen giant suffering from hardening of the arteries" (New York Times, January 30, 1955). An initial step in the rehabilitation of the company was the working out of a method for the orderly, progressive and complete decentralization of the management. "That was an idea Ford 2d brought with him to the presidency. The professional managerial 'savvy' required to translate the concept into the elaborate organization" that ultimately evolved, came from Breech. "That, plus a knack both for picking men and for using them most effectively, was what Breech had to sell" (Business Week, June 13, 1953).

Another important phase of Breech's contribution to the company's regeneration was a vast development program. Between 1946 and 1953 the company spent $900,000,000 in expanding its facilities. This program "required construction of thirteen manufacturing plants across the country, sixteen parts depots or warehouses and four engineering buildings as well as the enlarging and modernizing of twenty existing plants" (New York Times, October 4, 1953).

By 1955 the sum had risen to $1,700,000,000—none of it borrowed, but all of it "plowed back" from the company's rising profits. As a result, Ford production and sales have increased sharply in the last few years, and, as Newsweek (February 7, 1955) reported, the company "accelerated from a poor third" in the automotive field, behind General Motors and Chrysler, "to strong second since hard-chinned Ernie Breech took the wheel." In announcing Breech's elevation to the first board chairmanship in the company's history, a promotion that makes him alternate chief officer, Henry Ford 2d paid him a generous tribute "for the transformation of the company, from one that was losing money to an expanding, aggressive leader in the industry" (New York Times, January 30, 1955).

Addressing the Harvard Business School's twenty-fifth annual national business conference on June 11, 1955, Breech stated that "knotty problems" concerning American industry were solved in the three-year pact of the Ford Motor Company with the United Automobile Workers, CIO. "It has been Ford policy for years," he declared, "to stabilize production and employment, to minimize layoffs through better planning and to use overtime pay to meet production peaks rather than hire temporary workers." He stated that his company had been working for some time on a plan of private supplementation of unemployment compensation "that would give substantial added security to our workers in ways consistent with private enterprise principles. . . . Such a plan should not shackle management's freedom to manage. . . . It should not offer unemployment benefits so great as to remove the incentive to work. The present plan meets every one of those requirements" (New York Times, June 12, 1955). (The key provisions of the pact are published on page 22 of the New York Times, June 7, 1955). The UAW-CIO (United Automobile,
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