William Spoor, former Pillsbury chairman, dies

by Jay Sjerven
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SALT LAKE CITY — William Howard Spoor, retired chairman and chief executive officer of The Pillsbury Co., Minneapolis, died on Nov. 14, 2014, at his home in Salt Lake City. Mr. Spoor was the principal driver overseeing Pillsbury’s dramatic growth in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr. Spoor was born in Pueblo, Colo., in 1923. His family moved to Denver, and it was there that Mr. Spoor was raised and educated. He was awarded a full athletic scholarship to attend Dartmouth College in 1941, but after World War II broke out, he enlisted in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. Mr. Spoor was commissioned as a second lieutenant and served in the Army for 3½ years.

After the war, Mr. Spoor returned to Dartmouth College, where he graduated in 1949 with a degree in history and education.

Soon after leaving college, Mr. Spoor joined The Pillsbury Co. He initially was area sales manager for the company’s export division in New York City. He advanced to vice-president and general manager of Pillsbury’s international operations. He was named the company’s chairman and c.e.o. in 1973 and served in that position until he retired in 1985. He returned to the Pillsbury helm briefing in 1988, before the company’s sale to Grand Metropolitan P.L.C.

Under his leadership, Pillsbury, long a leading flour milling and food company headquartered in Minneapolis, embarked on a period of dramatic growth into the broader food industry, which included acquisitions of Green Giant, Häagen-Daz, Totino’s Pizza, Steak & Ale, Godfather’s Pizza, American Beauty Macaroni, Van de Kamps and Bumble Bee Tuna. Pillsbury in those years also greatly expanded its Burger King business.

In 1973, when Mr. Spoor took the helm at Pillsbury, the company had sales of $816 million, profits of $20 million with earnings per share at $1.60. When he retired in 1985, Pillsbury sales aggregated $4.7 billion, profits were $192 million, and earnings per share were $4.42.

Mr. Spoor was active in the life of the Twin Cities community through service on several boards and foundations. He was a director and executive committee member of the United Negro Fund.

Mr. Spoor and his wife, Janet Spain Spoor, were married in 1950 and lived 40 years in Wayzata, Minn., until 2005, when the couple moved to Salt Lake City to be near children and grandchildren.

Mr. Spoor was preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, Janet Spain Spoor. He is survived by his children, Melanie Grace Spoor, Cynthia Field Spoor (Douglas Howard), William Lincoln Spoor, six grandchildren as well as by his brother, T. Richard Spoor.
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