TIRES: GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER COMPANY

Name: Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company

In 1898 Frank and Charles Seiberling established a rubber company in Akron, Ohio. They decided to name it after Charles Goodyear who had invented the vulcanization process 59 years earlier. Goodyear failed to properly patent his discovery and had died a poor man.

The Goodyear company began producing bicycle tires but soon became involved in the new automobile industry and innovative ideas enabled the company to become the world's biggest tire supplier by 1916. Looking for more raw materials it acquired huge rubber plantations in Sumatra and was the world's biggest rubber producer by the end of the 1920s.

The Seiberling Brothers were ousted from the company in 1921 during a financial crisis and the firm's bankers Dillon Read put in a new management team. The company bought the rights to build zeppelins in 1924 and use the blimps as a means of advertising. In 1926 the bank decided to put Paul Litchfield in charge of the company and he helped the company grow by creating retail outlets, buying the Kelly Springfield company and funding development which resulted in synthetic rubber tires in 1937. Litchfield stayed in charge of the company until the late 1950s.

The company continued to grow in the US through innovative products but in the mid-1960s the company began to expand internationally and decided to enter Grand Prix racing in 1965 and scored its first win with Ritchie Ginther's Honda in the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix. Goodyear stayed in F1 (except for a few months in 1980-81) until 1998 by which time it had scored a total of 368 Grand Prix victories. The company's nearest rival is Dunlop with 83 victories.

Goodyear suffered badly after the 1986 takeover bid by Sir James Goldsmith. The company sold off its non-tire businesses and had to borrow nearly $5bn to avert the takeover and with business slow in the 1990s the company took a long time to recover. After reporting heavy losses in 1990 the company was taken over by Stanley Gault who instituted a series of new ideas, including selling tires through retail outlets other than Goodyear's own network. He also laid off large numbers of workers and closed unprofitable factories.

Gault retired at the end of 1995 and was replaced by Sam Gibara and in February 1998 he announced plans to double the company's sales within five years and announced a major restructuring. As part of this the company dropped its involvement in Formula 1.

A year later Goodyear concluded a deal to take over Sumitomo Rubber Industries, the owner of the Dunlop brand, moving Goodyear back to its number one position in the tire industry.

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