John W. Teets, a self-made businessman who served as chief executive officer for the Phoenix-based Dial and Greyhound corporations in the 1980s and 1990s, has died. He was 77.
Teets died Friday night at his Paradise Valley home of complications from Alzheimer's disease, according to family friend Steve Roman.
"He's a giant, in my mind," said Joe Fassler, who worked with him from 1976 until Teets' retirement in 1997. "He defined leadership. He was a no-nonsense guy and a very, very energetic manager. I was in awe of him."
Teets, who grew up in Chicago and was a partner in a successful suburban entertainment complex, joined the Greyhound Corp. in 1963 to help develop the restaurants at the company's subsidiary operating at the New York World's Fair.
He became president of two food service subsidiaries in 1965 at age 32, the youngest subsidiary chief operation officer in Greyhound's history. Teets went on to become president and CEO of the Greyhound Food Management and group vice president of food service for the corporation in 1975.
Company officials said the food service group grew 60 percent over the next four years. Teets in 1980 oversaw units involved in aircraft ground services, cruise ship gift shops, airport duty-free shops and their service businesses.
Teets was elected vice chairman of the Greyhound Corp. and to the board of directors in 1980. He was named chairman and CEO of Armor & Company, then a Greyhound subsidiary, and became Greyhound's CEO in October 1981.
Over the next decade, Teets restructured Greyhound from a giant conglomerate into a streamlined company. He sold the Armor meatpacking company in 1983 to ConAgra for $2 billion, but retained the consumer products business, which became known as the Dial Consumer Products Group.
By 1987, Teets had completed the sale of Greyhound Lines _ the nation's largest provider of intercity bus transportation _ to Dallas investors for $350 million.
Dial Corp., the Scottsdale-Ariz.-based soap maker, was divided into two independent, publicly traded entities in 1996 _ the $1.6 billion Dial Corp. consumer product business and the $2.5 billion Viad Corp. service business that encompasses convention service, airline catering and financial payment services, plus travel and leisure businesses.
Fassler said Teets dabbled in real estate after retirement and maintained a small office at the Viad building in midtown Phoenix. Teets helped design the distinctive building, according to Fassler. He said Teets regularly worked out of his small sixth-floor office until a few months ago.
Fassler, who at age 69 remains a consultant for Viad, said Teets also was "a strong community giver" and should be remembered for his work with Phoenix-area charities and cultural activities.
Under Teets' tenure, Dial sponsored the television rights for the PGA's Phoenix Open and was a corporate investor in the Arizona Diamondbacks, which joined major league baseball as a National League expansion team in 1998.
Teets also invested money in the NBA's Phoenix Suns in 1987 when the team was up for sale and on the verge of relocating after a drug scandal involving several players.
"He encouraged me to put a deal together. He was my mentor, and I respected him dearly," former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo said. "Our community has lost one of our great leaders."
Teets is survived by his wife Nancy, four daughters and five grandchildren. Funeral services were pending Saturday.