Thread: Frank Perdue dies.
04-02-2005, 08:30 AM #1
Frank Perdue dies.
BALTIMORE -- For many Americans, the TV image is ingrained: a distinctive-looking man in a white lab coat, carefully handpicking the birds lucky - and tender - enough to become Perdue chickens.
Frank Perdue, who died Thursday at his home in Salisbury, Md., at age 84 after a brief illness, was one of the first corporate leaders to pitch his own product on TV, his public persona helping to transform a backyard egg business into one of the nation's largest food companies.
"He was able to develop a brand out of something that had never been branded before, and he did it all with his face and his folksy talk," said Stephanie Thompson, an Advertising Age reporter. "He really lent a homegrown air of quality to the brand, which was essential to get people to see the difference between a Perdue chicken and other chickens."
At the time of his death, Perdue was chairman of the executive committee of the board of directors of Perdue Farms Inc., based in Salisbury on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
Among his TV slogans was, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken."
The ads helped boost sales from $56 million in 1970 to more than $1.2 billion by 1991, when he turned the reins over to his son, Jim. The company, which has become the country's third-largest supplier of chickens, had $2.8 billion in sales in 2003.
Perdue was regularly ranked in Forbes' list of the 400 richest Americans.
"A lot of corporate America could take a lesson from Frank Perdue, a man who started out selling chickens from an ice chest in the back of his truck," said John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association and a Baskerville, Va., farmer who sold chickens to Perdue for 13 years. "We didn't always agree, but he was a good businessman, he was fair and he was responsive to the needs of his growers."
Perdue's father, Arthur W. Perdue, started the family business in 1920, the year his son was born, raising chickens for eggs. Perdue and his father switched the business from eggs to chickens in the 1940s and broke into retail sales in 1968.
In building his poultry business, Perdue was the consummate entrepreneur and workaholic, who would put in 18 hours a day. He was said to have gotten by on three or four hours of sleep and to have kept a cot in his office, even though his home was only 50 yards away.
When Perdue took to the airwaves in 1971, the company was credited with being the first to advertise chickens by brand. Perdue said a New York ad man persuaded him to run his own TV commercials, but he also gave Perdue a warning.
"He said, 'If you do this, you're going to have some heartaches from it. You're going to have people yelling at you or maybe screaming at you or criticizing you, but I think it's the best way to sell a superior chicken, which I think you have,' " Perdue said in a 1991 interview.
Some said Perdue resembled the birds he sold, and he told WMAR-TV about an interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey: "She asked me, did anybody ever tell me that I looked like a chicken; I said yes."
Perdue Farms' expansion in the 1970s was rapid, but it also sowed the seeds of worker discontent. The company opened new plants in rural, often poor areas of the South, where labor was cheap. Inevitably, union activism sprung up, which Perdue sought to suppress.
In 1986, Perdue admitted to a presidential commission that he had twice unsuccessfully sought help from a New York crime boss to put down union activities, actions he later said he regretted deeply.
Perdue also faced pickets from animal rights activists.
His associates said Perdue never spent much time worrying about his critics, but he was never completely comfortable with his fame either.
Born in Salisbury, the only child of older parents, Perdue was a shy boy who spent much of his time working on the family farm. "Frank was a persistent businessman, but he never forgot his humble beginnings among the farm community he worked with for so many years," said Maryland Agricultural Secretary Lewis Riley.
Perdue is survived by his third wife, Mitzi Ayala Perdue, as well as four children, two stepchildren, 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Last edited by Lozgod; 04-02-2005 at 08:33 AM.
04-02-2005, 10:35 AM #2
Bump. My flying Frank Perdue will not go unnoticed.
04-02-2005, 10:37 AM #3
04-02-2005, 01:36 PM #4
mmmmm, tastes like chicken
04-02-2005, 01:37 PM #5Originally Posted by mushroomstampr
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