Wednesday, June 11, 2008

If we ever have a plan, we're screwed....

He was born in Shaker Heights OH in 1925, an Aquarius and instead of staying there to run his family's sporting goods store in Cleveland OH, he headed for the Yale School of Drama. He gained critical acclaim for his 1953 Broadway debut as Alan Seymour in William Inge's "Picnic" and Warner Bros hired him. Paul Newman, with his devestatingly blue eyes and good looks has been on his own path through life since those days.

He and his wife Joanne Woodward, who he married in January of 1958, have quietly lived their lives together in Westport CT, for the past 50 years. Today comes word that Newman has also, quietly, turned over the entire value of his ownership in Newman's Own, to charity. The transfer was completed over a two year period in 2005 and 2006 and the entire amount of his donations to Newman's Own Foundation Inc comes to approximately $120 million dollars.

"He's a fighter. He's going to keep on fighting," stated one of his close friends on Tuesday.

The tip off about Newman, 83, came with reports that had been leaked that he had been seeing an oncologist and in late May, he announced that he wouldn't direct a production of "Our Town" later this summer at the Westport Country Playhouse. His neighbor, Martha Stewart posted pictures of Newman on her Website from a recent party she hosted and they showed Newman gaunt but smiling that devilish grin of his. His friends state that Paul shouldn't be written off as dying and it may be that Newman is just making time for his own life after all these years of living publically. He had announced last year that he was retiring from acting at age 82.

Most know Paul Newman from his long history in film beginning in 1954 with the film "The Silver Chalice" and the great films, "The Hustler", "Hud", "Cool Hand Luke". "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Color of Money." His interest in auto racing began after he played an Indy-car driver in the 1969 film "Winning" and it continued throughout his life. His first victory on the track came at Thompson Motor Speedway in Thompson CT, when he drove a Lotus Elan to victory in 1972. He won SCCA's national title and top amateur honor, the President's Cup in 1976 and turned pro in 1977.

He has continued to race and became the oldest driver to win the 24 Hours of Daytona when he co-drove a Ford Mustang GTS-class to victory in 1995. In 1983, Newman and his patner, Chicago based businessman Carl Haas, bought into the open-wheel CART class cars and have sucessfully raced their Newman-Haas team there for years. Newman has slowed his racing as well as his acting career but he is still a very staunch supporter of the Champ cars style of racing over the Indy cars that split off from them in the 1990's. Their team has won six titles including two season titles in a row.

The 1980's also saw Newman founding Newman's Own Inc along with his friend, writer A E Hotchner. For several years, Hotchner and Newman had been cooking up batches of homemade salad dressing in Newman's basement and giving them out to friends when they went Christmas caroling in their Westport CT neighborhood. Their dressing was a hit with friends and became a very sought after item in the neighborhood gourmet shops.

The two of them decided to give marketing their dressings a go and invited friends over to sample the recipes and choose their favorite. They saved themselves the projected $400,000 they could have spent on test marketing and in 1982, Newman's Own put out their first product, Olive Oil & Vinegar Salad Dressing. They put Newman's picture on it as a joke and Newman decided then to give all after-tax profits away to charity, since he didn't need the money from the business.

They continued to grow and add dressings and then expanded to other products. Each year the company showed increased earnings and grossed $36 million by 1988. The next year, the company the company realized a pre-tax profit of 16 percent, about five times the 3.4 food industry average. Even with their steady groth and increasing success, they remained fully committed to charity. Newman and Hotchner would sit down each year and review the applications and split the profits between educational and charitable organizations they felt most needed assistance.

In 1988, Newman's Own founded The Hole in the Wall Gang camp in Ashford CT, which is now part of a charitable organization that operates six camps for gravely ill children. Named after the outlaw characters in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", they are a nonprofit residential camp for children with cancer and other serious diseases. The original camp is tucked away in the acres of woods and is much like the movie sets Newman worked on for years, from the fron it looks like a western style town with shops but behind, there are state of the art facilities that can accomodate almost any illness a child may suffer from.

In 1990, Newman's Own sponsered it's first recipe contest which required that each entry use a Newman's Own product. The top prize of $50,000 was given to the charity of the winner's choice and it was entertaining to watch Newman, Hotchner and sometimes Woodward, personally tasting all the finalist entries. As early as 1993, Newman's Own had given aid to 460 applicants, the highest number in a single year for the company.

Newman's third daughter, Nell brainstormed the idea and sold it to her father for Newman's Own Organics: The Second Generation, a divsion that would develope products that used certified organic ingredients. They have also become the focus of a course at Fairfield University School of Business in Fairfield CT and particpate with them hands-on. Teams of students are invited to brainstorm new products and plan marketing strategies for the Westport company along with the help of management, finance and marketing professors. At the end of the term, they have to report their findings and the top two teams have $2,500 to their favorite charities.

In November 1999, the announcement was made that Paul Newman had passed the $100 million dollar mark in charitable giving since his company had begun. Over 2,000 charitable and educational organizations have benefitted from his donations. Oprah Winfrey made notice of Newman's donations as well in an April 2000 show of her "Angel Network." She announced the establishment of a weekly "Use Your Life " award of $50.000, funded in part by Paul Newman.

"If we stop having fun, we're closing up shop," stated Paul Newman.

While Newman may now be facing health issues as well as choosing to slow down in life, he is still very involved in the company. His daughter's division, run with her business partner, Peter Meehan contiues to grow and expand, adding new products to their line as well. Paul Newman has proven that Hollywood doesn't create monsters of all it's stars and those in his hometown and those touched by his advocacy and charity, will remember him as much more than a good looking, wisecracking actor with devastating blue eyes.