George Schultz, former Bechtel president and cabinet secretary to Nixon and Reagan, dies at 100

George P. Shultz, president of Bechtel Corporation between 1975 and 1982, and a senior cabinet officer in the Nixon and Reagan administrations, has passed away at the age of 100.

Bechtel said he died at his home in Stanford, California on 7 February. The company mourned the loss of a "distinguished statesman, public servant, and renowned economist" who had "led the company to global expansion and signature projects". 

Shultz taught economics and business at MIT and the University of Chicago, and served as senior economist to President Eisenhower and then as Secretary of Labor and Secretary of the Treasury under President Nixon before joining Bechtel as executive vice president in 1974 at the age of 53.

He was elected president of Bechtel in 1975 after which the company embarked on projects such as the Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona, Jubail Industrial City in Saudi Arabia, and the cleanup of Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.

In 1980, Shultz presided over the reorganisation of the company into three main divisions – Bechtel Power, Bechtel Petroleum, and Bechtel Civil & Minerals – the precursors of the company’s current four global business units.

In 1982, he returned to government as Secretary of State under President Reagan.

When the Reagan presidency ended, Shultz he rejoined Bechtel in 1989 as a director and served until April 26, 2006.

"We lost a great friend and trusted advisor with George’s passing," said Brendan Bechtel, the company’s chairman and CEO. "George was a distinguished statesman, dedicated public servant, and renowned economist. He was also an accomplished businessman who helped guide Bechtel’s global expansion and its development as a trusted engineering, construction and project management partner to industry and governments."

Image: George Shultz, seated on Richard Nixon’s right, at the signing of Executive Order 11491 in 1969, with labour leaders. The order established a federal framework to govern labour-management relations (US National Archives and Records Administration/Public domain)

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  1. I met George Schultz while I was assigned to Bechtel’s Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore. I asked him who he believed was the most astute political leader he had met during his career, and what he thought was one of the more interesting aspects of his business and political career. His response to the first question was Lee Kwan Yew because of his ability to seek advice and make decisions in the best interest of Singapore. To the second question he smiled and said, “Well, how about this? For 20 straight years I was never in the same international time zone for more than one month.” I always believed George Schultz was one of the smartest persons I have ever met. God rest his soul.

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