Thomas Garvin, former Keebler exec, dies at 74

by Eric Schroeder
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WHEATON, ILL. — Thomas M. Garvin, former chief executive officer of Keebler Co. for 14 years, passed away July 30 at the age of 74.

After beginning his career at Coopers & Lybrand and EKCO Products, Mr. Garvin joined Keebler in 1969 as controller, later moving on to executive vice-president of finance and treasurer. He was named executive vice-president of operations in 1974, and he later became president and chief operating officer in 1976. He was named c.e.o. in 1978, a position he held until leaving the company in February 1993.

While at Keebler, Mr. Garvin was credited with helping broaden the company’s portfolio beyond cookies and crackers to include salad dressings, seasonings and pretzels. He also stepped up the company’s charitable efforts, including making Keebler the title sponsor for the annual Keebler International Prep Track and Field Invitational in Elmhurst, Ill.

But Mr. Garvin’s departure from Keebler was marked with controversy. He was asked to resign by Keebler’s parent at the time, London-based United Biscuits (Holdings) P.L.C., after a 59% decrease in operating profit in the first half of fiscal 1993.

In reporting on the change in management at Keebler, The Financial Times of London said, “The autocratic and combative Mr. Garvin has been replaced by Brian Chadbourne, head of McVitie’s biscuits, U.B.’s biggest division.”
In 1994, Mr. Garvin joined a New York-based investment company in a joint venture to create G.G. Products Co., Oak Brook, Ill. Along with Onex Investment Corp., a subsidiary of Onex Corp., Toronto, G.G. Products acquired several companies.

In late 1995, Mr. Garvin, along with Tim Collins, a former associate at a Canadian-based investment company, joined to acquire Edwards Baking Co., Atlanta, and Tripp Bakers Products, Wheeling, Ill.
Mr. Garvin served on the boards of many companies, including First Midwest Bancorp Inc., G. Heileman Brewing Co. and Glencoe Capital.

Survivors include his wife, Mary; five sons, Thomas, Martin, Kevin, Michael and Brian; a daughter, Kathleen Bumpus; and 18 grandchildren.

Mass was celebrated on Aug. 3 at St. Michael Church in Wheaton, Ill.

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