Wednesday, June 19th, Thomas Russell, former chairman and CEO of Federal-Mogul Corp, died in Detroit at the age of 88, of pancreatic cancer.
Thomas Russell led the company for 14 years, throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, a period considered challenging for the auto industry. In 1969 he was named executive vice president , in 1972 promoted Federal-Mogul’s president , in 1975 he was named CEO, and in the following year he became chairman of the company.
“He had a deep understanding of the industry and was passionate about the business,” said Federal-Mogul CEO Rainer Jueckstock.
He was nicknamed ‘The Velvet Hammer’ for his though but friendly management style and for leading the company to profitability back in the 1980s. According to the employees, he knew the name of each person working in the factory. He liked to be among the employees and get involved with their work.
“He’s involved — not just making an appearance — and he’s a bit of a character,” said Allen Jahnke, a Federal-Mogul systems and program manager. “He makes a habit of wearing paisley pants to golf outings. You wouldn’t know he’s a chairman when he walks through the building. He just doesn’t fit the stereotype.”