William Spoor, former Pillsbury chairman, dies

by World Grain Staff
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SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, U.S. — William Howard Spoor, retired chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of The Pillsbury Co., Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., died on Nov. 14, at his home in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S. Spoor was the principal driver overseeing Pillsbury’s dramatic growth in the 1970s and 1980s.

Spoor was born in Pueblo, Colorado, U.S., in 1923. His family moved to Denver, and it was there that Spoor was raised and educated. He was awarded a full athletic scholarship to attend Dartmouth College in 1941, but after World War II broke out, he enlisted in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. Spoor was commissioned as a second lieutenant and served in the Army for 3 and a half years.

After the war, Spoor returned to Dartmouth College, where he graduated in 1949 with a degree in history and education.

Soon after leaving college, Spoor joined The Pillsbury Co. He initially was area sales manager for the company’s export division in New York City. He advanced to vice-president and general manager of Pillsbury’s international operations. He was named the company’s chairman and CEO in 1973 and served in that position until he retired in 1985. He returned to the Pillsbury helm briefing in 1988, before the company’s sale to Grand Metropolitan PLC.

Under his leadership, Pillsbury, long a leading flour milling and food company headquartered in Minneapolis, embarked on a period of dramatic growth into the broader food industry, which included acquisitions of Green Giant, Häagen-Daz, Totino’s Pizza, Steak & Ale, Godfather’s Pizza, American Beauty Macaroni, Van de Kamps and Bumble Bee Tuna. Pillsbury in those years also greatly expanded its Burger King business.

In 1973, when Spoor took the helm at Pillsbury, the company had sales of $816 million, profits of $20 million with earnings per share at $1.60. When he retired in 1985, Pillsbury sales aggregated $4.7 billion, profits were $192 million, and earnings per share were $4.42.

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