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September 1, 2020 11:00 AM, EDT

Robert Mercer, Former Goodyear CEO, Dies at 96

Goodyear CEO and Chairman Robert Mercer sits behind his desk at Goodyear Headquarters in November 1987.Goodyear CEO and Chairman Robert Mercer sits behind his desk at Goodyear Headquarters in November 1987. (Akron Beacon Journal)

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AKRON, Ohio — Robert E. Mercer, a former chairman and CEO of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., died Aug. 28 at the age of 96.

Mercer, whose career at Goodyear spanned 42 years, died of natural causes, according to his son, Robert G. Mercer.

He is known for defending the Akron-based tire maker from an attempted takeover in 1986 by European financier Sir James Goldsmith, who quickly acquired Goodyear stock in an effort to drive up the share price and sell off its pieces in what is known as a “corporate raid.”

After Mercer prevailed in keeping Goodyear intact and in Akron, he oversaw corporate restructuring and became an outspoken critic of “Wall Street culture,” which he saw as placing short-term shareholder gains over the long-term viability of the corporation.

Robert E. Mercer died on Aug. 28.

Mercer

“Goodyear had 46,000 shareholders, 132,000 employees and several million customers,” Mercer told The Plain Dealer in 2011, 25 years after the attempted raid. “They were telling us we had to put our shareholders first. I believed we owed it to our employees and customers to put them first.”

Mercer was born in Elizabeth, N.J. He received to a scholarship to play baseball at Ohio University, but left after one semester when the U.S. entered World War II and he and his twin brother, Richard, went into the Navy. He attended officer candidate school at Yale University and received an officer’s commission, and served on the USS Cleveland. He graduated from Yale in 1946 with a degree in mechanical engineering.

He is survived by his wife, Mary (Deuel). They wed in 1947, the same year Mercer joined Goodyear as a salesman, selling conveyor belt and industrial hose parts in the company’s Duluth, Minn., region. He was promoted throughout the years, becoming company president in 1978, chief operating officer in 1980, and served as chairman and CEO from 1983 to 1989.

Mercer is survived by his five children: Kathleen Bond of Shaker Heights, Ohio; Robert G., of Santa Monica, Calif.; Maryann John, of Richmond, Va.; Donald, of Wichita, Kan., and John, of Akron, Ohio. He also is survived by 10 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

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