|William C. Durant|
AKA William Crapo Durant
Birthplace: Boston, MA
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Founder of General Motors
William C. Durant's father was a successful banker and stock speculator, and his maternal grandfather, Henry Howland Crapo, was a lumber and railroad magnate who was Mayor of Flint when Durant was born and later became Governor of Michigan. Generally called "Billy" for all his life, young Durant dropped out of high school to work in his grandfather's lumber business. He then used family money to purchase control of Josiah Dallas Dort's Coldwater Road Cart Company, which was renamed Durant-Dort Carriage Company and became the nation's leading supplier of horse-drawn carriages. In 1904 he leveraged his Durant-Dort stock to purchase control of David Buick's faltering Buick Manufacturing Company, which became a leader in the new automotive industry.
He founded General Motors in 1908 with $2,000 of his own money, and immediately offered stock that raised $12-million in less than two weeks. With these funds GM purchased Buick and, a month and a half later, the Olds Corporation, founded by Ransom E. Olds. GM continued its buying spree, taking over more than two dozen competitors and suppliers, including the Oakland Company, which was renamed Pontiac, and the Cadillac Motor Car Company, which was initially made a subsidiary of Buick. Durant also provided financial backing for Albert Champion's Champion Ignition Company (now ACDelco). This strategy, however, left the company overextended and Durant was squeezed out of control in 1910.
After leaving General Motors, he founded the Chevrolet Motor Car Company, named for the famed auto racer Louis Chevrolet, who designed the company's first model. Chevrolet, originally a luxury nameplate, became much more successful when Durant added more moderately-priced vehicles, and within a few years the company was so profitable that Durant used its cash-flow and a loan from the Du Pont family to purchase control of General Motors.
Under his second round of leadership at GM, Durant hired future GM CEO Alfred P. Sloan and Delco founder Charles F. Kettering, established GMAC, and purchased Fisher Brothers Body Company and Frigidare. Still, GM had become an unwieldy giant that exceeded Durant's management skills, and the company survived only with further cash infusions from Pierre Samuel du Pont III, who became President of GM with Durant's departure.
He then established Durant Motors, where he sought to replicate the broad scope of General Motors by acquiring Star Motors to compete with cheap Fords, and the luxurious Locomobile to compete with high-priced Cadillacs and Packards. Durant Motors was a rising concern for several years, but lost much of its financing in the Wall Street collapse of 1929 and was shuttered in 1933. After this last automotive venture, Durant purchased a bowling alley in Flint, which went bankrupt in less than a year.
Father: William Clark Durant (stock speculator, b. 20-Oct-1827, d. 1883)
Mother: Rebecca Folger Crapo (b. 26-Mar-1833, m. 29-Nov-1855, div., d. 8-Feb-1924)
Sister: Rebecca Crapo Durant Willett ("Rosa", b. 24-Nov-1857, d. 9-May-1903 stroke)
Wife: Clara Miller Pitt Durant (b. 27-Apr-1864, m. 17-Jun-1885, div. 27-May-1908, d. 1940, two children)
Daughter: Margery Pitt Durant Green Campbell Daniel Cooper (b. 24-May-1887, d. 1959)
Son: Russell Clifford Durant ("Cliff", b. 26-Nov-1890, d. 31-Oct-1937 heart attack)
Wife: Catherine Lederer Durant (b. 1-Jun-1886, m. 28-May-1908, d. Jan-1974)
High School: (dropped out)
Durant-Dort Carriage Company President (1895-1913)
Buick Motor Co. General Manager (1904-06)
Buick Motor Co. President (1906-08)
General Motors Founder & President (1908-10, 1917-20)
Champion Ignition Company Co-Founder (1908)
Chevrolet Founder & President (1911-17)
Durant Motors Founder & President (1921-33)
Bankruptcy $914,231 in debts (8-Feb-1936)
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