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William Joseph "Bill" Agee (born January 5, 1938 in Boise, Idaho) is a former American business executive, most notably as the CEO of Bendix in Michigan and later with Morrison-Knudsen of Idaho. Agee also was placed on the cover of Time Magazine as "Financial Man of the Year." Agee is most noted for helping to destroy every company he ran and receiving a large severance package on his way out.

Early life

William McReynolds Agee was born in Boise, the middle child (and only son) of Harold J. and Suzanne (McReynolds) Agee. Harold, the son of a Baptist minister, had varied careers: manufacturing executive, dairy farmer, and state legislator.

Harold moved the family to a dairy farm in nearby Meridian in 1953, and Bill transferred to Meridian High at age 15. He quickly established himself as a bright and popular student with leadership skills. Agee was elected class president in that first year as a sophomore and again in his senior year. He also played varsity basketball and was named one of the two most studious members of his class, which graduated in 1956.

Agee began his college studies at Stanford University that fall and married Diane Rae Weaver of Boise after his freshman year in September 1957. He stayed in Boise for his sophomore year and received his associate degree from Boise Junior College in 1958. He transferred to the University of Idaho for his final two years and received a bachelor's degree in business (with highest honors) in 1960. Agee enrolled in the Harvard Business School in 1961 and was awarded an MBA with distinction in 1963. He later received the Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award in 1977.

Boise Cascade

Following graduation from Harvard, Agee joined the Boise Cascade Corporation in Boise in 1963 at age 25 and quickly moved up the corporate ladder. He was appointed CFO in 1969 at age 31 and senior vice president in 1971.

Recognizing that executive vice president John Fery was next in line to become the CEO, Agee left to join to the Bendix near Detroit, Michigan, in May 1972. Agee departed Boise Cascade just ahead of the news that the company lost a then-staggering $170 million in the previous fiscal year. [1]


William Agee was hired by Bendix CEO Michael Blumenthal as CFO and executive vice president, with a seat on the board of directors. Agee was elected president of the company in December 1976 at the age of 38, and elevated to CEO a few weeks later when Blumenthal departed to join President-elect Jimmy Carter's cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury.

As an executive, Agee boosted Bendix's stock price through canny investing, and won converts to his idea Bendix could break from its mature industry (automotive parts) by going high-tech through selective acquisitions.

Bill Agee was an unorthodox executive for the 1970s, often dressing in business casual attire years before it was in vogue. He removed the traditional table in the board room to improve communication, and replaced it with large comfortable reclining chairs. He also liked to reward and promote young employees, a practice which came under considerable scrutiny in 1980.

The nationally-publicized office romance between Agee and his former executive assistant, Mary Cunningham came to light in 1980. A recent Harvard MBA graduate (1979), Cunningham was rapidly promoted within Bendix by Agee, which eventually received considerable national publicity. She resigned in October 1980 after just 15 months, moving to Seagram's in New York City.

In the era of corporate takeovers in the early 1980s, Agee felt compelled to participate. His bold attempt to acquire Martin Marietta in 1982 went sour and soon the roles were reversed. Bendix sought a partner to fend off the takeover and eventually merged with Allied Corporation, a deal which was completed in February 1983. But the new CEO of the combined company was to be from Allied, and within days Agee discovered he was not in favor and announced his resignation, effective June 1. Agee received a handsome severance, a golden parachute, which included five years continuation of his $825,000 annual salary. Bendix's stock price more than doubled during his 6 years as CEO, from under $40 to $85 at the merger. [2]

Family estrangement

Agee and Mary Cunningham were married in June 1982, the second marriage for both. Until his departure from Bendix, the two-city couple commuted between their house in the Detroit suburbs and a suite at the Helmsley Palace in New York City. After Bendix, they retreated to a house on Cape Cod, and later Pebble Beach, California. Agee had converted to Catholicism in July 1981, after several months of instruction. Both Agee and Cunningham had received annulments from their previous marriages.

When Agee's father Harold was dying of cancer in 1986, he attempted to mend fences with his son. But in the process, millionaires Bill & Mary tried to meddle in Harold's estate planning and two weeks before his death, Harold wrote Bill out of his will. His mother Suzanne ended all contact, saying she didn't want to see Bill if it meant seeing Mary. Four years later, as she lay dying in Boise's St. Luke's Hospital in June 1990, Bill (then with MK, just blocks away) did not visit nor attend her funeral. William Agee legally changed his middle name to "Joseph" a month after his mother died. His middle name had been "McReynolds", his mother's maiden name. Agee was also not on speaking terms with his two sisters (Carolyn Hjort & Jackie Agee), ex-wife (Diane), or their three grown children. [3]

Current information

Agee currently resides in Napa Valley, California, with his wife, Mary, and children Will and Mary Alana. The Agees founded Semper Partners, a venture capital and strategic consulting firm. Mr. Agee is involved in numerous charitable endeavors. Most notably he is the chairman of Semper Charitable, the family's charitable foundation, and is a member of the board of directors for The Nurturing Network, an organization dedicated to serving the needs of pregnant college and professional women in crisis.

External links

  • A managerial perspective [4]


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