The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Whitson Sadler begins his interview with a description of his family history, which he traces back to an English missionary in the 1600s. Born in Bristol, Tennessee, Sadler was the middle son of two formally trained schoolteachers. As a young boy, Sadler's father accepted a position as a ticket agent at American Airlines, which caused the family to move several times during Sadler's formative years. Sadler attended high school in Long Island, followed by a year of post-graduate prep school in New Hampshire at The New Hampton School. After this post-graduate year, Sadler enrolled at the Sewanee, the University of the South where he excelled in mathematics; this eventually led him to pursue a degree in economics. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Sadler enlisted in the US Navy, spending most of his four-year service in Washington, DC and Norfolk, Virginia.
Following his time in the Navy, Sadler attended Harvard Business School. Upon graduating, Sadler was offered a position at Lazard Frères & Co. , where he worked first as an associate and then as a general partner, for seven years. It was during this time that Sadler first began to work with Solvay S. A. , which was expanding its business to the United States. After working on the Soltex Polymer Corporation board, Sadler became more familiar with the company and in 1977, left Lazard Frères & Co. to become vice chairman and, after a year, CEO of Solvay America, Inc. Over the next two decades, Sadler worked to expand the depth and breadth of Solvay's various product lines, and became an important member of the Chemical Manufacturers Association, helping to develop the Responsible Care program. Solvay America prospered under his leadership, reaching over 25 percent of Solvay's overall sales by the time of his retirement. Sadler concludes his interview with a discussion of current politics and his activities since retirement.
|1963||Sewanee: The University of the South||BS||Economics|
Lazard & Frères
Solvay America, Inc.
Houston Museum of Natural Science
Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)
Chemical Manufacturers Association
American Plastics Council
Chevalier, Order of King Leopold, Belgium
Chemical Industry Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)
Table of Contents
The Sadler family history. Father's career at American Airlines. Living with dyslexia. High school in Long Island. Post-graduate year at the New Hampton School. Attending Sewanee, the University of the South as an economics major.
Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. In Washington, DC as part of computer support group. Working in Honolulu. Air Intelligence School in Norfolk. Celebration at Breezy Point Officers' Club. Meeting future wife. Professor Walt Salmon and Dr. Christianson. Creating an acquisition analysis program with cohorts.
Working for Felix Rohatyn. First attempt to create a deal, between O. M. Scott and Toro. Frank Pizzitola and first dealings with Solvay SA. Soltex Polymer Corporation. Claude Loutrel. Solvay's acquisition of Celanese Corporation's high-density polyethylene business. Jacques Solvay's influence.
Moving family to Texas. Becoming chief executive officer of Solvay America. Corpus Christi ethylene cracker. Ray R. Irani. Acquiring Tenneco Soda Ash Company. The original Solvay plant. Solvay's corporate culture. Moving into human pharmaceuticals. The Responsible Care program. Benefits of the Solvay family's involvement in company.
Growing sales percentage contributed to United States. Potential growth in specialty and high performance plastics. Solvay's expansion in to China and India. Pharmaceutical products pipeline. Work on American Plastics Council board and parallels to the American Chemistry Council. Future impact of Europe's REACH regulatory framework. Management challenges while at Solvay. Solvay's current leadership team.
Life after retirement. Various board commitments. Current relationship with Jacques Solvay and other industry friends. Attending the 2000 Republican convention in support of George W. Bush. The importance of educating people about the chemical industry. President George W. Bush. Current interests.
About the Interviewer
Arthur Daemmrich is an assistant professor in the Business, Government, and International Economy Unit at Harvard Business School and a senior research fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. His research examines science, medicine, and the state, with a focus on advancing theories of risk and regulation through empirical research on the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and chemical sectors. At HBS he also plays an active role in an interdisciplinary Healthcare Initiative, advancing scholarship and developing applied lessons for the business of creating and delivering health services and health-related technologies. Daemmrich was previously the director of the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He earned a PhD in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University in 2002 and has held fellowships at the Social Science Research Council/Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He has published widely on pharmaceutical and chemical regulation, biotechnology business and policy, innovation, and history of science.