Alfred P. Sloan Jr. Biography: Life, Career, Success & Wealth

Estimated read time 4 min read
Agence de presse Meurisse, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
BirthdateMay 23, 1875
BirthplaceNew Haven, CT
EducationMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
CareerGeneral Motors (GM)
Positions HeldVice President, CEO
Innovative ConceptsPlanned Obsolescence, Brand Management
PhilanthropyAlfred P. Sloan Foundation, Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research
Books Authored“My Years with General Motors,” “The Making of a Corporate Legend”
Board MembershipsMetropolitan Museum of Art
DeathFebruary 17, 1966
Net Worth$250 million

Alfred P. Sloan Jr. was an American businessman and the longtime CEO of General Motors (GM). Born on May 23, 1875, in New Haven, Connecticut, Sloan was one of the most influential figures in the automotive industry during the first half of the 20th century.

Sloan attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied engineering. After graduating in 1895, he began working for a small ball-bearing company in New Jersey. He later worked for Hyatt Roller Bearing Company and then joined GM in 1916. At the time, GM was struggling to compete with Ford, which was dominating the market with its Model T.

Sloan quickly rose through the ranks at GM and was appointed CEO in 1923. During his tenure, Sloan implemented a number of innovative management practices that helped GM become the world’s largest automobile manufacturer. He created a decentralized corporate structure, which gave more autonomy to individual divisions, and introduced the concept of “planned obsolescence,” which encouraged customers to upgrade to newer models more frequently.

Under Sloan’s leadership, GM also acquired a number of other automobile companies, including Buick, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac. By the 1950s, GM controlled more than half of the U.S. automobile market.

Sloan retired from GM in 1956 and spent the remainder of his life focused on philanthropy and public service. He donated millions of dollars to various charitable causes, including education and healthcare, and served as a trustee for several organizations, including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which he established in 1934.

At the time of his death on February 17, 1966, Sloan’s net worth was estimated to be $250 million, making him one of the wealthiest individuals in the United States. His legacy lives on through his contributions to the automotive industry and his philanthropic efforts, which continue to make a positive impact on society today.


1875 – Alfred P. Sloan Jr. is born on May 23 in New Haven, Connecticut.

1895 – Sloan graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in engineering.

1897 – Sloan begins his career working for a small ball-bearing company in New Jersey.

1904 – Sloan joins the Hyatt Roller Bearing Company as a sales representative and quickly rises through the ranks.

1916 – Sloan is recruited to General Motors (GM) by Pierre du Pont and appointed Vice President in charge of operations.

1923 – Sloan is appointed CEO of General Motors and begins implementing his innovative management practices.

1926 – GM acquires the McLaughlin Motor Car Company of Canada and renames it General Motors of Canada Ltd.

1929 – Sloan introduces the concept of “planned obsolescence,” which encourages customers to upgrade to newer models more frequently.

1934 – Sloan establishes the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which provides funding for scientific research and education.

1953 – GM celebrates its 50th anniversary and produces its 50 millionth vehicle.

1956 – Sloan retires from GM after 43 years with the company.

1966 – Alfred P. Sloan Jr. dies on February 17 at the age of 90 in New York City.

Despite his passing, Sloan’s innovative management practices and contributions to the automotive industry continue to influence business leaders today.

5 Interesting Facts about Alfred P. Sloan Jr.:

  1. He was instrumental in the creation of the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, which is named after him and his friend and business associate, Charles F. Kettering.
  2. Sloan was a proponent of the “ladder of success” approach to management, which involved promoting employees based on their potential rather than their current performance.
  3. He is credited with creating the concept of “brand management,” which involved assigning individual managers to oversee each of GM’s automotive brands.
  4. Sloan was a prolific writer and authored several books, including “My Years with General Motors” and “The Making of a Corporate Legend.”
  5. In addition to his philanthropic work, Sloan was an avid supporter of the arts and served on the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

5 Quotes from Alfred P. Sloan Jr.:

  1. “The most dangerous moment for a bad government is when it begins to reform.”
  2. “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
  3. “The joy in life is in the doing.”
  4. “All business is teamwork.”
  5. “If you want to be successful, you need to have a plan and stick to it.”

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