About Eugene W. Stetson
Three Major Business Accomplishments
The Coca-Cola Company
Gene Stetson was a key original participant in a group formed by Ernest Woodruff in 1919 to purchase the Coca-Cola Company from the Asa Candler family. He initially negotiated the purchase on behalf of the Woodruff group, and after the purchase became one of three trustees of a trust which retained voting control of the company. He was instrumental in keeping the New York banks with loans to the company calm during several difficult years after the purchase.
The purchase of Coca-Cola was the first major leveraged buyout in the United States in the 20th century, and preceded the establishment of the leveraged buyout business in the United States by approximately 55 years.
Illinois Central Railroad
In 1932, Gene Stetson was asked by W. Averell Harriman to take his seat on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Central. At that time, all of the railroads were experiencing severe financial difficulty as a result of the Great Depression.
At a time when railroads were being driven into bankruptcy receivership, Gene Stetson, initially as a Director and later as Chairman of the Executive Committee, helped restructure the balance sheet of the Illinois Central Railroad without compromising the securities of investors. In 1948, as a result of Mr. Stetson's financial acuity, the Illinois Central was able to resume dividend payments on its preferred shares after a lapse of 17 years and two years later resumed payments on common stock after a 19-year lapse. Thus the Illinois Central was able to resume its traditional role as a dividend paying railroad.
In 1916, the Guaranty Trust Company of New York, already a major bank, invited Gene Stetson to move to New York from Macon to join the bank as a Vice President. Mr. Stetson was elected as a Director in 1928, President in 1941, and Chairman in 1944.
In the library of his New York apartment during the spring of 1958, Gene Stetson arranged with Henry Clay Alexander of J.P. Morgan the merger of the Guaranty Trust Company of New York with J.P. Morgan & Co., resulting in the formation of The Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. Mr. Stetson was paid an investment banking fee by the Guaranty Trust Company as its financial advisor. This investment banking fee for the merger of these two major banks preceded the establishment of the merger and acquisition business on Wall Street by 15 years.
A great deal more about Eugene W. Stetson’s business legacy may be found in the book Relationship Banker, authored by School of Business and Economics faculty member James L. Hunt and published in 2009 by Mercer University Press. Go>