John W. Teets had an illustrious career as a business leader, reshaping major American corporations like Greyhound and Dial. Born in 1933, Teets got his start as an entrepreneur before rising to become CEO of Greyhound in the 1980s. He restructured the company into the consumer goods giant Dial Corporation.
Teets left a legacy in both business and philanthropy. He passed away in 2011 at age 77.
Early Life and Education
John Teets was born on September 15, 1933 in Illinois. He attended Elmhurst High School, where he was involved in track and the Demonstrators Club.
This early involvement in extracurriculars foreshadowed Teets’ future leadership capabilities. The well-rounded student graduated from high school in 1951.
While still in his 20s, Teets embarked on his first entrepreneurial venture. At age 29, he became a partner in an entertainment complex located in a Chicago suburb.
The complex housed 16 different shops, an ice skating rink, and a 300-seat restaurant. Running this innovative local business gave Teets hands-on experience with management and operations.
This entrepreneurial background paved the way for his rapid rise later in the corporate world.
Rise Through the Ranks at Greyhound
Teets joined the Greyhound Corporation in 1963. His first role involved developing restaurants for Greyhound’s Post House subsidiary at the New York World’s Fair.
Just two years later in 1965, Teets was promoted to President of Greyhound’s food service subsidiaries Post Houses and Horne’s Enterprises. At age 32, he became the youngest executive in Greyhound’s history.
Over the next decade, Teets took on expanding leadership roles across food service, retail, transit, and travel sectors of Greyhound.
Major Career Milestones at Greyhound
Teets’ successful leadership led to him being named Vice Chairman of Greyhound Corporation in 1980. The same year, he also joined the Greyhound Board of Directors.
Just one year later in 1981, Teets was appointed CEO of the entire Greyhound Corporation. He became Chairman of the Board in 1982 at the age of 48.
Over the following decade as CEO and Chairman, Teets dramatically restructured and streamlined Greyhound into a more focused, profitable company.
Reshaping Greyhound into Dial Corporation
As part of his restructuring plan, Teets sold off major non-core Greyhound assets. This included the $2 billion sale of the Armor meatpacking division to ConAgra in 1983.
However, Teets kept and grew Greyhound’s consumer products division under the Dial Corporation name. Dial became known for iconic consumer brands like Dial soap, Renuzit air fresheners, and Purex laundry detergent.
Teets also sold the Greyhound bus line operations to focus purely on consumer packaged goods.
Leadership of Highly Successful Dial Corporation
Under Teets’ leadership in the 1990s, Dial Corporation delivered outstanding growth and shareholder returns.
From 1991-1996, Dial’s stock price significantly outperformed the S&P 500’s gains. Dial products could be found in over 70 countries globally, manufactured in 15 US plants.
Teets completed the transition with a final spin-off transaction in 1996. Dial Corporation became a standalone $1.6 billion consumer goods company.
Commitment to Arizona and Local Communities
Beyond business, Teets was deeply committed to Arizona and giving back to local communities.
When the NBA’s Phoenix Suns were at risk of relocating in 1987, Teets helped keep the team in Arizona by organizing a major investment from Greyhound Corporation.
He also created Dial’s community giving program which donated over $5 million annually to Arizona charities and causes.
Personally, Teets raised $5+ million as chairman of a 1996 campaign benefiting Boys & Girls Clubs across the state. His fundraising enabled major expansions of their programs and facilities.
Notable Awards and Honors
Over his long career, Teets received many honors and awards recognizing his business leadership and community impact.
He was named Foodservice Operator of the Year in 1980 by the International Food Service Manufacturers Association.
Other accolades included CEO of the Year in 1986 from Leaders Magazine, as well as an Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1995.
Teets also received honorary doctorate degrees from three different universities.
Legacy and Impact
John Teets passed away in 2011 at the age of 77 after a legendary career. He built a reputation as an entrepreneur, turnaround CEO, and community leader.
Teets’ restructuring of Greyhound and leadership of Dial Corporation stand out as major business achievements. His investments also left a lasting positive impact on the state of Arizona.
Decades later, John Teets remains an example of the heights both business success and philanthropic devotion can reach together. His self-made journey from high school student to CEO of a Fortune 500 company continues to inspire future generations.