F. Ross Johnson is a Canadian who's business career has impacted the economic lives of millions of people around the world. His international reputation as a business leader and entrepreneur, places him among the most influential executives of the 20th century. His origins led him from a modest upbringing in depression-era Winnipeg, to become Chief Executive Officer of RJR Nabisco, one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world.
Born in Winnipeg in 1931, F. Ross Johnson's business career is characterized by an attitude of success and an exemplary work ethic. His career as an entrepreneur began in grade school where he held a variety of after-school jobs such as delivering magazines and door-to-door selling. He received his Bachelor of Commerce degree from The University of Manitoba in 1952 and began his business career at Canadian General Electric, progressing through a series of finance and marketing positions. While at Canadian General Electric, Mr. Johnson attended the University of Toronto, receiving his Master of Commerce degree in 1956. In 1964, he became vice-president for merchandising with the T. Eaton Company, leaving in 1967 to become executive vice-president and Chief Operating Officer of GSW Ltd., a major Canadian appliance manufacturer.
In 1971, Mr. Johnson joined Standard Brands Limited of Canada as President and Chief Executive Officer. Two years later he moved to New York City as Senior Vice-President and President of International Operations with the parent company, Standard Brands, Inc. He was elected President and Chief Operating Officer of Standard Brands in 1975, and the following year was elected Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
When Standard Brands and Nabisco, Inc. merged in 1981, Mr. Johnson was elected President and Chief Operating Officer and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the newly formed Nabisco Brands organization. He was elected Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Nabisco Brands in 1984. When Nabisco Brands and RJR merged in 1985, becoming RJR Nabisco, Mr. Johnson was named President, Chief Operating Officer, and a member of the Board of Directors. He was elected Chief Executive Officer in 1987.
Under Mr. Johnson's leadership, RJR Nabisco became the 19th most profitable company in the world, with annual sales of $18 billion, 250 manufacturing plants, and 165,000 employees. He retired from the firm in 1989 after arranging its sale for $25 billion, an amount that remains the world's highest price ever paid for a company.
Today F. Ross Johnson is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of RJM Group, Inc., his own international management and advisory firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. The RJM Group has major investments in companies such as Bionaire, Inc., a producer of environmental air products headquartered in Montreal, and Peterson Properties, a real estate and management firm located in Atlanta. Mr. Johnson serves as Chairman of the Board at both companies. He also serves on the boards of directors of several US and Canadian companies, including the American Express Company, Archer Daniels Midland Company, Midland-Financial Group, Inc., National Service Industries, Noma Industries, and Power Corporation of Canada.
In addition to his leadership in business, F. Ross Johnson has an extensive record of service to government, educational, and charitable institutions. He served as Vice-Chairman of the Executive Council of the Foundation of the Commemoration for the Constitution (Bicentennial) of the United States. From 1978 to 1986, he was Chairman of The New York Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and is the only non-American to be elected Chairman of The Economic Club of New York where he served from 1983-86. He has served as Chairman of the Advisory Committee for the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University in New York, and as a trustee of Duke University, and currently serves on the Advisory Council of the Goizueta School of Business at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mr. Johnson was made an officer of the Order of Canada (O.C.) in 1986. He has received honorary Doctor of Law (L.L.D.) degrees from St. Francis Xavier University (1978), Memorial University of Newfoundland (1980), and Barry University in Miami, Florida (1987). Other awards he has received include The Harriman Award, New York City (1978), the Silver Medal of Patriotism, United States of America (1980), and the 125th Anniversary Medal - Confederation of Canada (1992).
F. Ross Johnson personifies the entrepreneurial spirit that forges economic growth. His dedication to managerial achievement and commitment to the society in which business functions, serves as an example to all young people aspiring to a successful career in business.