John W. Teets was one of Arizona’s and the country’s most influential business and community leaders. His legacy is of entrepreneurship and leadership to the state of Arizona, the country and internationally. His impact on and deep commitment to Phoenix and greater Arizona spans four decades filled with business and philanthropic success.
John was a self-made businessman who rose to be the CEO of one of the nation’s most successful Fortune 500 corporations. He led a $5 billion conglomerate with 48,000 employees and reshaped it into one of the world’s leading consumer goods and services companies. He recognized that in order to keep up in a fast-paced world, readjustment is vital for a company to survive. Whatever the product or service, John was a hands-on CEO who concentrated heavily on the bottom line.
John began his illustrious business career as an entrepreneur. By age 29, he was a partner in an entertainment complex in suburban Chicago, which housed 16 shops, an ice-skating rink and a 300-seat restaurant. This entrepreneurial background launched his success in the corporate world. John joined the Greyhound Corporation in 1963 to help develop the restaurants at Greyhound’s Post House subsidiary at the New York World’s Fair. In 1965, at age 32, he became president of two food service subsidiaries, Post House and Horne’s Enterprises, the youngest subsidiary chief operation officer in Greyhound history. He eventually went on to become president and chief executive officer of Greyhound Food Management and group vice president of food service for the Greyhound Corporation in 1975. During that time, the food service group grew 60 percent over the next four years. He was assigned added duties as group vice president of services in 1980 to oversee units involved in aircraft ground services, cruise ship gift shops, airport duty-free shops and their service businesses.
In 1980, John was elected vice chairman of the Greyhound Corporation and to the board of directors. He was soon named chairman and CEO of Armor & Company, then a Greyhound subsidiary. In October 1981, John became CEO of the Greyhound Corporation and was elected chairman of the board in 1982.
Over the next ten years, John restructured the Greyhound Corporation from a giant conglomerate into a streamlined company. By doing this he made the company more manageable and profitable and more attractive to investors. He sold Armor in 1983 to ConAgra for $2 billion, but retained the consumer products business, which became known as the Dial Consumer Products Group.
In early 1996, John completed the final piece of his strategic restructuring plan for the company. Dial was divided into two independent, publicly traded entities. One was comprised of its well-known $1.6 billion consumer products business, the Dial Corporation, and the other its $2.5 billion service business, the Viad Corp. Viad is made up of the service businesses of the former Dial and included convention service, airline catering, financial payment services, and travel and leisure businesses.
John’s reshaping of Dial was a success. From 1991 to 1995, Dial stock outperformed the S&P 500 by almost 50 percent. Dial researchers have also estimated that eight out of every ten U.S. homes contain at least one of the company’s products. At the time, Dial items were sold in 78 countries and were manufactured in 14 U.S. plants and one plant in Mexico. Dial’s service companies, which contributed 47 percent of the corporation’s total revenues, become industry leaders. Greyhound Leisure Services was the world’s largest operator of duty-free shops on cruise ships; Dobbs International Services was the largest domestic airline caterer; Travelers Express was the nation’s largest seller of money orders, exceeding the U.S. Post Office, and GES Exposition Services became the largest convention operator in the U.S.
John was not only a successful businessperson; he was dedicated to the success of his community and made a noteworthy difference in the Valley and State. During his tenure as chairman of Dial, John oversaw contributions to charitable organizations throughout Arizona, which exceeded $36 million. In 1981, he created Dial’s community giving program, which provided $5 million per year for hundreds of charities and community projects. As the general chairman of the Boys & Girls Club’s 50th Anniversary Campaign in 1996, he helped raise over $5 million in a 10-month period. His efforts made possible the building of a new Boys & Girls Club in Avondale, Arizona, a scholarship fund, new computer labs and a $1 million endowment fund to ensure financial security for the Boys & Girls Club’s programs and services.
Along with supporting charities and cultural activities, John also made efforts to ensure that Phoenix would continue to be a profitable and growing city. In 1987, he helped keep the NBA Phoenix Suns basketball team in the Valley, with a significant investment from Greyhound. As the CEO of Dial, he sponsored the TV rights for the Phoenix Open, and under his leadership, Dial stepped up to the plate to become the first corporate investor of the expansion Major League Baseball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
John was a member of numerous business, professional and academic organizations, including the Business Roundtable, Conference Board and Presidents Association of the American Management Association. He also promoted significant public policy issues within the state including taking a leadership role in establishing a Victims’ Rights Amendment to the Arizona Constitution in 1990. This was a landmark achievement that affords all victims of crimes with the opportunity to have a participatory role in the criminal justice system.