Founder of FedEx (View Profile)
Fred Wallace Smith was born on August 11, 1944 in Marks, Mississippi to parents Frederick and Sally. His father died when he was 4 years old and it was his mother and uncles who brought him up. Although their father left a sizable amount of money, it was place in a trust fund which will only be released on their 21st birthday.
He attended the Presbyterian Day School and the Memphis University School for his elementary and high school education, respectively. He initially wanted to be a pilot.
He entered the Yale University in 1962. It’s been said that while at Yale that the idea for FedEx, or initially called Federal Express, was born. It started as a home work for his Economics class. They were tasked to create a business idea and he wrote about an over-night delivery service for time-sensitive goods across the U.S. Years later, this would be the basis for the creation of FedEx.
In 1966, Smith finished college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and became 2nd Lieutenant. He was sent to Southeast Asia, studied in a flight school, and flew more than 200 ground support missions. He was discharged honorably in July 1969 as a captain and received various awards, such as the Silver Star, a Bronze Star and two purple hearts. He married Linda Black Grisham in the same year.
In 1970, he started a business based on the idea he had written while at Yale University. To get things started, he bought controlling interests in his father-in-laws company, Ark Aviation Sales. It was an aircraft maintenance company that eventually also sold previously-owned corporate jets under Smith’s leadership.
on June 18, 1971, using his $4 million inheritance plus an additional $91 million via venture capital, he founded Federal Express. By 1973, they were already servicing 25 cities delivering documents and small packages overnight using 14 Falcon 20 jets. He likened the idea to a bank clearing house located at the center of all banks where representatives would go to bring whatever it is that need to go to the other banks.
FedEx became the first business in the U.S. to earn $10 billion in revenues. By 2010, FedEx has over 600 aircraft, delivery vehicles that numbered more than 46,000 and more than 140 thousand employees. They were servicing more than 210 countries around the world.
At the heart of FedEx is Smith’s business philosophy of people, service and profit (P-S-P). He believed in being easily accessible to his employees and customers coupled with a management style that put together vision, a CAN-DO attitude, social responsibility and a tough-minded approach.
He received the Peter F. Drucker Strategic Leadership Award in 1997. In 1998, he joined the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame. Chief Executive Magazine named him as the CEO of the Year in 2004. In 2008, he received the Kellogg Award for Business Leadership. He is also included in the Aviation Hall of Fame. He served on the St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital And Mayo Foundation boards.
According to Forbes, Fred Smith’s net worth is at $1.8 billion.