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PERSONNEL: Prince in Armour

3 minute read

Chicago’s William Wood Prince, whose job is guiding a $100 million fortune, gets little out of it but hard work. He is chairman of five boards of directors, president of twelve companies, a director in 16 others, as well as steward for a $3,800,000 stock interest in Armour & Co. Last week Billy Prince, 43, added another chore: he was elected president and chief executive of $468.3 million Armour, world’s second biggest meat packer (first: Swift), succeeding Frederick W. Specht, 67, who remains board chairman.

Billy Prince, a handsome, hustling man who hates offices, was born William Wood, the son of a fairly prosperous New York insurance executive. At ten, he became the protege of a distant cousin, the late Frederick Henry Prince, a brilliant, eccentric New England speculator who liked to boast that he had built four railroads and had financial control at one time or another over 46 more. “Cousin Fred’s” own young son Norman, of France’s famed Lafayette Escadrille of U.S. flyers in World War I, was killed in action in 1916, and his ‘older son showed no interest in Prince’s enterprises, which had spread far beyond railroads.

Work & Play. Billy went through Groton and Princeton (’36). while Cousin Fred, at his princely estates at Newport and in Europe, taught him to work hard and play hard. At midnight after a 17-hour day, Prince often gave Billy a packet of francs and sent him off to the casinos to learn how to lose gracefully. While Billy was serving as a World War II artillery captain in the Pacific, Prince wrote: that he wanted to adopt him and change, his name, so that a member of his family could carry on. Billy accepted, took over an empire that included the, Chicago Union Stock Yards. Chicago Junction Railway, Live Stock National Bank. Stock Yard Inn. International Amphitheater, and stock interests in Armour and other companies. But when Cousin Fred died at 93 in 1953, he did not leave Billy a cent in cash. Instead, he turned over his estate* (annual net before taxes: above $5.000,000) to Billy to run as its salaried co-trustee with Bostonian James F. Donovan, an old business associate. Billy earns upwards of $200,000 yearly.

Branding & Broiling. Haunting the obsolete stockyards in his tweedy British jackets and Bedford britches, Billy soon gave the place a $2,000,000 face lifting, put in modern truck ramps, insisted to cattlemen that Chicago, not Omaha, was cow butcher to the world. For gourmets who patronized the yard’s Sirloin Room he added a touch: they could pick and brand their own steaks before broiling. To expand the Prince estate income, he went into industrial research. One Prince project has developed a safe, cheap method of liquefying and shipping methane gas, which Continental Oil Co., in a joint venture, hopes to market in a year in areas that have no natural gas.

Director Prince’s needling inventiveness has also helped make money for Armour, pushed its pharmaceutical and chemical divisions (Dial Soap, Chiffon Liquid detergent, anhydrous ammonia, soluble dried blood for plywood glue, etc.). But Prince wants 89-year-old Armour to diversify even more, recently said: “At Armour we’re on the edge of a new era. I’m not selling Armour stock. I’m buying.” Billy Prince hopes to usher in the new era himself.

* Which is locked up in irrevocable trusts. Principal from 60% of Cousin Fred’s estate is payable to his descendants 21 years after the deaths of a dozen individuals including Billy, who can never collect a cent of it. Billy’s three children can, if they live long enough.

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