1973 Irving S. Shapiro

Irving S. Shapiro (1916-2001) became chairman and chief executive officer in December 1973. With neither family connection nor scientific experience, Shapiro admitted to being "the first real stranger to the company." He restructured the firm’s long-term debt to fund new plant capacity and also reoriented the firm into specialized, high return products such as agricultural chemicals. He maintained the company’s core commitment to research while shifting its research and development focus toward product lines not dependent on volatile petroleum supplies.Show more

DuPont GM Anti-trust courtroom scene, 1955

The son of Lithuanian immigrants, Irving Shapiro graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1941 and held a variety of government positions during and after World War II. In 1948, as a lawyer for the Justice Department, he won his first case before the Supreme Court. Three years later he joined DuPont’s legal team. Shapiro grew intimately acquainted with the company during the lengthy General Motors-DuPont antitrust suit, and, as the chief architect of the settlement, won the trust of the du Pont family. Shapiro became assistant general counsel in 1965 and five years later was appointed to the Executive Committee. In July 1973 he became vice chairman, preparing the way for his succession to the top job in December of that year.

 

Shapiro steered DuPont successfully through a difficult decade. His legal experience made him uniquely suited to handle the problems of federal regulation, fair-employment practices, economic recession, and the energy crisis that bedeviled DuPont during the 1970s. Under Shapiro’s stewardship, DuPont expanded its overseas operations. Shapiro retired in 1981 but continued to practice law in Wilmington and provide counsel to DuPont into the 1990s.