February 6, 2023

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Former P&G CEO John Pepper on predecessor John Smale’s impact


Pepper also talks about his own return to becoming executive chairman of P&G in 2000 after the resignation of his successor, Durk Jager. “It was very disappointing,” Pepper said. “I was extremely sorry to see this turn of events. … The challenges the company had faced, he had faced, a lot of them undoubtedly were there when I left.”

But he said he was heartened by the subsequent turnaround under the next CEO, A.G. Lafley. “I felt, in a way privileged to be able to play this role,” Pepper said, “a role that frankly, I never would have wanted to happen. But it did. And we came out of it with renewed spirit.”

Pepper noted that it’s a tradition for P&G execs to provide advice to their successors, even when don’t get pulled back in to help run things. He said he has offered occasional advice to successors including David Taylor and current Chairman-CEO Jon Moeller. And he recalled one bit of unsolicited advice he once got from Smale after P&G’s stock tanked.

“Forget about it,” Pepper said he recalls Smale saying. “Just keep executing the plan you have. It’s a good plan. The stock price will take care of itself.

“It didn’t stop me from looking at the stock price,” Pepper said. “But it lifted a heavy load off me, and it provided a heck of a good piece of perspective, which I’ve tried to pass on.”



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