Chair and Chief Executive Officer of DuPont
Born Charles O. Holliday, Jr., in 1948, in Nashville, TN; married; children: two sons. Education: Earned degree in industrial engineering from the University of Tennessee, 1970.
Addresses: Office—DuPont, 1007 Market St., Wilmington, DE 19898.
Began career with DuPont as a summer intern, then hired as an engineer at a plastics factory in Old Hickory, TN, 1970; business analyst in the fibers division after 1974; held various manufacturing management positions until 1984; became a corporate plans manager, 1984; global business director for Nomex, 1986, and Kevlar, 1987; director of marketing for the pigments and chemicals division, 1988-90; began as vice president, became president, for DuPont's Asia Pacific operations, 1990-97; named company director, 1997; chief executive officer, 1998—; chair, 1999—.
As chief executive officer of DuPont since 1998, Chad Holliday has taken on a tough challenge: to steer the immense, global chemical manufacturer away from its reliance on nonrenewable source materials. The number-three chemical company in the United States, DuPont makes everything from Stain-master carpet protection to Kevlar bulletproof vests, and many of the company's most successful patents have been based on petroleum derivatives. Holliday has renewed the company's commitment to innovation, but told research chemists to focus on coming up with products made from plants instead. "We're a science company, we always have been, " Forbes writer Chana R. Schoenberger quoted him as saying.
Born in 1948 in Nashville, Tennessee, Holliday captained the football team at Overton High School and planned to start his career with the industrial equipment distribution company his father owned once he finished college. Though his high school guidance counselor discouraged his plan to earn an industrial engineering degree at the University of Tennessee (UT), he went ahead anyway, but his father wound up selling the company a few months before he graduated. His first contact with DuPont came during one of his summers off from college, when he landed a short-term internship. When he graduated from UT in 1970, he was hired full-time as an engineer at DuPont's Old Hickory, Tennessee, plastics factory.
The plant was one of dozens around the world that bore the DuPont name. The company had been founded in Delaware back in 1802 as a gunpowder mill, and branched out during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as manufacturer of an array of industrial chemicals. In 1930, chemists at the company made the breakthrough that resulted in nylon, and a few years later discovered Teflon, the most slippery substance known to exist. Over the next several decades, DuPont trademarked an array of synthetic fibers, including Lycra, Spandex, Tyvek, and Kevlar, that were used in hundreds of consumer products and industrial applications.
In 1974, Holliday moved over to DuPont's fibers division as a business analyst, and for the next few years held a series of managerial jobs inside the division's manufacturing plants. He became a corporate plans manager in 1984, and then global business director for its fire-retardant Nomex products in 1986. After holding the same title with DuPont's Kevlar division, in 1988 Holliday was promoted to director of marketing for the pigments and chemicals division. He spent the better part of the 1990s as a vice president and then president of Dupont's Asia Pacific operations, an experience he has said forced him to reevaluate the American versus the Asian approach to doing business on a global scale.
Named a company director in 1997, Holliday was chosen as DuPont's newest chief executive officer in 1998, and elevated to board chair a year later. His advance came at a tough time for the company, as it struggled to remain a world market leader. DuPont was once a blue-chip stock to own, but it had consistently failed to meet its own earnings expectations, and Wall Street analysts downgraded its rating. Holliday believed that the company needed to branch out into biotechnology in order to improve the bottom line. It sold off Conoco, an oil and gas company it owned, and then paid more than $7 billion for a biotech seed property; a few years later, when the plant company's promise failed to pan out, DuPont was forced to write off half that amount, which made investors irate. It also bought Pharma, a drug manufacturer, and hoped to build it into an industry leader, but Holliday was forced to make the decision to sell that, too, in 2001.
After a company reorganization in 2002, Holliday approved increased funding for new research efforts. Chemists at its famed Experimental Station began looking into new plant-based, not petroleum-based, formulations with consumer potential. One of these was a new fiber, Sorona, made from corn. In 2006, DuPont opened a much-heralded new manufacturing plant in Tennessee that would produce carpet fiber made from Sorona. Holliday also set a company goal: by 2010, 25 percent of DuPont products would be made from non-petrochemical sources. This goal commits the company to a future based on carbohydrates, which grow and are renewable, not hydrocarbons, which must be extracted from the Earth and are a finite resource. Engineers at the "Ex" Station, as it is known, are also working to improve fuel-cell technology and make thinner, brighter flat-panel displays for cell phones and other consumer electronics.
Some of Holliday's vision is less idealistic than simply practical—oil prices have fluctuated wildly since the start of the twenty-first century, and less reliance on oil means more easily controllable manufacturing costs. "Ten years ago it didn't seem logical to go after insect-resistant crops, either, " he told Claudia H. Deutsch in the New York Times in 2006. "We're not betting the company on bio-based materials, but we do think they have the potential to have the same impact on us that long-chain polymers [the chemical compound that gave DuPont its breakthrough in nylon in the 1930s] once did."
Holliday is the co-author of Walking the Talk: The Business Case for Sustainable Development, which was published in 2002. He has also served a stint as chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Married with two sons, he is reportedly at his desk by 6:30 every morning, and is known to answer his own phone. Overseeing a company that posted 2005 revenues of $26.6 billion, and has some 60, 000 employees around the world, is only one part of the challenges he faces daily. DuPont's future as the No. 3 chemical producer in the United States, behind Dow and ExxonMobil, is at stake for him. "The country has to protect its ability to innovate and grow, " he told Time's Eric Roston. "If the U.S. doesn't get its act together, DuPont is going to go to the countries that do… And although we'd much rather be here—we're based here, it's our home—we have an obligation to our employees and shareholders to bring value where we can."
Walking the Talk: The Business Case for Sustainable Development, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2002.
Forbes, February 3, 2003, pp. 54-60.
Journal of Corporate Citizenship, Winter 2002, p. 123.
New York Times, February 28, 2006, p. C1.
Time, December 19, 2005, p. A34.
"DuPont CEO Chad Holliday, Jr. Speaks to Overton Seniors, " John Overton High School, http://www.overtonhighschool.com/content.asp?CID= 88809 (April 24, 2006).