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Lee Iacocca knows what it’s like to be brash and gutsy. It once cost him a plumb job with Ford Motor Company. However, it helped him to turn the Chrysler Corporation into a profitable business and himself into an icon of American can-do.
Iacocca was born on Oct. 15, 1924, at Allentown, Pa., as the second child to Nicola and Antionette Iacooca. His birth name was Lido Anthony Iacocca, but he later became known as “Lee.” His father became known in Allentown as a hard-driving businessman, opening restaurants and a rental car company, among other interests. Iacocca worked and went to school, graduating in 1945 from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. In 1946, he earned a master’s degree in engineering from Princeton University.
Also in 1946, Iacocca went to work with Ford Motor Co., which would prove prominent in his career. He worked his way through the company, becoming the general manager of the Ford division and vice president of the company in 1960. Iacocca became president in 1970, but his brashness reportedly cost him that job in 1978.
His father recovered after business reverses during the Great Depression. Iacocca, without a job during the recession of the late 70s, took after his father by not letting defeat be final. He secured a job as president of the struggling Chrysler, which at the time manufactured gas-guzzling vehicles during rising gas prices.
The company faced bankruptcy, but Iacocca would not give up. He approached the U.S. Congress for financial assistance. Congress agreed to $1.5 billion in loan guarantees if Chrysler could raise another $2 billion in capital. It did, and the 1981 fiscal year showed a small profit. In 1984, Chrysler generated $2.4 billion in profits after reforming its vehicles and entire company. Iacocca retired in 1992 from Chrysler.
However, in 2000, at the age of 75, Iacocca has his name associated with the Gunther Ebike, an electric bicycle that works like either a motor scooter or a traditional bicycle. Iacocca, like his father, continues to be the bold entrepreneur.