TWICE IN A LIFETIME: From Soaps to Skyscrapers by Charles Luckman

TWICE IN A LIFETIME: From Soaps to Skyscrapers

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Say this for Luckman: He's still one crackerjack of a salesman. While the I's have it in this self-assured autobiography, the sometime Wunderkind of American business provides a generally persuasive and altogether absorbing version of his remarkable two-career life. In 1931, fresh out of the Univ. of Illinois, where he'd been schooled as an architect, the newly married Luckman won a job in Colgate's advertising department on the strength of his drawing ability. Four years later, the upwardly mobile author (who wound up selling Palmolive soap) was recruited by the second-generation owner of Pepsodent. Luckman helped revive the toothpaste maker's flagging fortunes, earning himself an equity interest--and a handsome payoff when the company was acquired by Unilever in 1945. Adapting quickly and easily to the new regime, the author became president of the US subsidiary (Lever Brothers) in 1946 at the age of 37. By 1950, Luckman had resigned his high-profile post with the Anglo-Dutch multinational in the wake of a dispute with European management over the market potential of detergents. Scarcely missing a beat, he returned to architecture with Illinois classmate William L. Pereira. Though thriving, this partnership did not survive the 1950's. Luckman nonetheless prospered as a solo act, employing his organizational and promotion talents to build a firm that ranked among the industry's top five, thanks to such projects as Boston's Prudential Center, Houston's manned-spacecraft complex, and N.Y.C.'s Madison Square Garden. Still active as he nears 80, Luckman looks back with considerable pleasure on an eventful, overachieving past. It's a measure of his merchandising flair that he manages to make even dubious deeds and battles sound utterly right. To cite but one example, the author's account of how he succeeded in barring drugstore chains from using Pepsodent as a loss leader during the Depression reads like an exercise in socioeconomic ressponsibility rather than a restraint of trade. A slick, well-delivered pitch then. The published text will have photographs (not seen).

Pub Date: June 6th, 1988
Publisher: Norton