Chief executive officer of United Technologies Corporation
Born George Alfred Lawrence David, April 7, 1942, in Bryn Mawr, PA; son of Charles David (a history professor); married Barbara Osborn, September, 1965 (divorced, 1997); married second wife, August, 2003; children: two daughters, one son (from first marriage). Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1965; Virginia University, M.B.A., 1967.
Addresses: Office—United Technologies, Inc., One Financial Plaza, Hartford, CT 06103.
Worked as a technical writer in New York City, early 1960s; began career with Boston Consulting Group, c. 1968; joined Otis Elevator, 1975, became general manager of its Latin American operations, 1977; headed Otis's Asian division and became a senior vice president at United Technologies Corporation (UTC), its parent company; became UTC president, 1992, chief executive officer, 1994, and board chair, 1997.
George David is one of American business's more formidable chief executive officers, though he remains largely under the radar in the mainstream press. As head of United Technologies Corporation (UTC), a large conglomerate with roots in the aerospace industry, David has pursued quietly aggressive and prudent strategies that have brought the Hartford, Connecticut-based Fortune 500 company revenues of $31 billion in 2003.
Born in 1942 in the college town of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, David is the son of a history professor who was nearing retirement age by then. Education and the pursuit of knowledge were stressed when he was growing up. "You don't chuck baseballs with a dad that age," David recalled in an interview with New York Times writer Claudia H. Deutsch. "Ours was an intellectual household."
David went on to Harvard University, where he majored in physics and chemistry, but earned such poor grades during his first two years that the school suggested he take a year off. He worked as a technical writer in New York City for a time, but returned to Harvard and graduated in 1965. He went on to earn a graduate business degree from Virginia University two years later, and took a job with the Boston Consulting Group. One of his clients was Otis, the elevator manufacturer, and in 1975 the company offered him a full-time executive position.
Just a year after David joined Otis, the company was bought by United Technologies, formerly the United Aircraft Corporation, which had made rocket engines and jet-propulsion systems. David was convinced that his new UTC bosses would fire him. "I was overtitled, overpaid, and underexperienced," he told Deutsch in the New York Times interview. But instead he was kept on board, and became general manager for Otis in Latin America. He also oversaw the company's Asian operations for a time, and advanced to the post of senior vice president. In 1992, he was made president, and named UTC's chief executive officer in 1994.
UTC had diversified its holdings by then, snapping up Carrier, a pioneer in the air-conditioning business, not long after the Otis purchase. It was still a strong leader in aerospace, reflected by its ownership of Pratt & Whitney, maker of aircraft engines, and helicopter-manufacturer Sikorsky. But UTC was hamstrung in some ways because of its size, and as its new leader David went to work on a series of restructurings over the next decade. He cut costs by downsizing the workforce, decentralizing operations at headquarters, and shedding some of its nonessential businesses, like UTC Automotive. With the extra cash on hand he also began a major acquisition effort, buying up brand names to add to the UTC aerospace stable, like Hamilton Sundstrand, which makes air-pressure systems for airplane cabins. UTC was also a longtime leader in fuel cells, having made the ones used for the Apollo moon landings, and David plowed resources into research and development—a crucial strategy for it to remain on top of the game. It even produced a prototype car with South Korean automaker Hyundai that used a new type of fuel cells, which draw electric current from hydrogen with no byproduct except for water.
After the downturn in the airline industry after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and ongoing recession, David kept UTC financially viable by cutting jobs at Pratt & Whitney, and closing some Carrier plants. He won high marks from Wall Street for pursuing a strategy that kept earnings high on UTC shares. It boasted a traditional 15 percent growth in earnings annually, despite the cautionary remarks that David sometimes delivered to the business press. "We like the philosophy around here of no bad news," he reflected in an interview with BusinessWeek Online interview with Diane Brady just weeks after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. "Now, we have bad news . I hate it. It's management's responsibility not to have bad news. On the other hand, this hasn't changed the fundamental strengths of our company. We're better positioned than we used to be, and we'll come back again. I'm sure of that."
Not all of David's strategies have been a success, however: in 2000, UTC was ready to announce a deal to buy Honeywell, but at the last minute General Electric (GE) put in a higher bid. The move was the work of GE's high-profile chair, Jack Welch, the darling of Wall Street and the business press at the time. In the end, European regulators nixed the GE-Honeywell deal, thanks in part to David's lobbying efforts. The UTC boss has often been compared to and contrasted with Welch, who became known as "Neutron Jack" for his win-at-all costs corporate ethos. David said the Honeywell deal left no ill will between the two. "I'm not sore. Jack and I are voracious competitors but we have an easy relationship," he told the New York Times's Deutsch, while adding, "It was nice of Mr. Welch to validate our business judgment and to overpay."
David has also been compared to Dennis Kozlowski, once the head of another leading American conglomerate, Tyco, but Kozlowski suffered a drastic fall from grace when revelations surfaced over his misuse of corporate funds. Court records detailed such extravagances as the purchase of a $6,000 shower curtain for a Tyco corporate apartment. Unlike Kozlowski, David is a model of fiscal probity. "I don't have a $6 shower curtain, let alone a $6,000 one," he told Sunday Times journalist Dominic O'Connell.
As the son of a professor and one of the first Rhodes scholars, David remains strongly committed to education issues. UTC offers a generous tuition-reimbursement program that provides the option of earning a free college degree for every one of its 205,700 employees. Newly minted college graduates are also rewarded with UTC stock. Twice married, David earns about $3 million annually, and spends his free time competing in yacht races with his 50-foot sloop. He is also a fearless skier and accomplished chef with a penchant for soufflés—one of the trickiest items in any cook's repertoire. When the New York Times' Deutsch reminded him that soufflés were prone to fall, he replied, "I like the challenge."
Black Collegian, February 1995, p. 56.
BusinessWeek, January 12, 2004, p. 60.
Financial Times, October 21, 2000, p. 22.
Forbes, March 3, 2003, p. 62.
Money, November 1, 2003, p. 54.
New York Times, November 19, 2000, p. 2.
Observer (London, England), July 28, 2002, p. 14.
Sunday Times (London, England), October 6, 2002, p. 8.
"About UTC," United Technologies Corporation, http://www.utc.com/profile/facts/index.htm (September 2, 2004).
"UTC's David: 'We'll Come Back Again,'" Business-Week Online,http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/nov2001/nf2001112_2874.htm (September 2, 2004).