Frederick Wallace "Fred" Smith (born August 11, 1944), is the founder, chairman, president, and CEO of FedEx, originally known as Federal Express, the first overnight express delivery company in the world, and the largest in the world. The company is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. Smith was crippled by bone disease as a small boy but regained his health by age 10, before becoming an excellent football player and learning to fly at 15. Smith had a great interest in flying, and became an amateur pilot as a teen. He attended elementary school at Presbyterian Day School and high school at Memphis University School.
In 1962, Smith entered Yale University. While attending Yale, he wrote a paper for an economics class, outlining overnight delivery service in a computer information age. Folklore suggests that he received a C for this paper, although in a later interview he claims that he told a reporter, "I don't know what grade, probably made my usual C", while other tales suggest that his professor told him that, in order for him to get a C, the idea had to be feasible. The paper became the idea of FedEx (for years, the sample package displayed in the company's print advertisements featured a return address at Yale). In his college years, he was a friend and DKE fraternity brother of George W. Bush. Smith was also friends with John Kerry and shared an enthusiasm for aviation with Kerry and was a flying partner with him.
In 1970, Smith purchased the controlling interest in an aircraft maintenance company, Ark Aviation Sales, and by 1971 turned its focus to trading used jets. On June 18, 1971, Smith founded Federal Express with his $4 million inheritance (approximately $23 million in 2013 dollars), and raised $91 million (approximately $525 million in 2013 dollars) in venture capital. In 1973, the company began offering service to 25 cities, and it began with small packages and documents and a fleet of 14 Falcon 20 (DA-20) jets. His focus was on developing an integrated air-ground system, which had never been done before. Smith developed FedEx on the business idea of a shipment version of a bank clearing house where one bank clearing house was located in the middle of the representative banks and all their representatives would be sent to the central location to exchange materials.
In the early days of FedEx, Smith had to go to great lengths to keep the company afloat. In one instance, he took the company's last $5,000 to Las Vegas and won $27,000 gambling on blackjack to cover the company's $24,000 fuel bill.
Smith has served on the boards of several large public companies, the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Mayo Foundation boards. He was formerly chairman of the Board of Governors for the International Air Transport Association and the U.S. Air Transport Association. Smith is chair of the Business Roundtable's Security Task Force, and a member of the Business Council and the Cato Institute. He served as chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council and is the current chairman of the French-American Business Council. In addition, Smith was named 2006 Person of the Year by the French-American Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the Aviation Hall of Fame.
Smith was named as Chief Executive magazine's 2004 "CEO of the Year" and the 2008 Kellogg Award for Distinguished Leadership, presented by the Kellogg School of Management on May 29, 2008. He was also awarded the 2008 Bower Award for Business Leadership from The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is the 2011 recipient of the Tony Jannus Award for distinguished contributions to commercial aviation. In March 2014, Fortune Magazine ranked him 26th among the list of "World's 50 Greatest Leaders"
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