courtesy of Mattel Inc.
Bob Eckert '77
Mattel CEO Bob Eckert, service to Kellogg and community is
Eckert says he was raised by classic "Greatest Generation"
parents. His father, a World War II veteran who became a dentist,
was active in his church, helped develop the local YMCA and
belonged to the Masonic lodge.
were people who were very community- and civic-minded. We
used to talk about sharing your time, your talent and your
treasures for the benefit of others," Eckert says. "I was
raised with a belief that we are very fortunate. Not only
were we born in America, but we were born, certainly, on the
other side of being poverty stricken."
graduating from the Kellogg School in 1977, Eckert says he
has had further good fortune to work for two companies that
share similar values: Kraft Foods, where he rose through the
ranks to president and CEO, and Mattel, where he has been
CEO since 2000. His situation has allowed him to engage in
various philanthropic efforts, including lending time and
talent to his B-school alma mater.
and Mattel are both very involved in their local communities
and share a culture of giving back," Eckert says. "We earn
a profit, and we've developed people, and we should use those
things for the benefit of the community, not just our shareholders."
of giving back to the Kellogg School were a bit simpler during
Eckert's 23 years at Kraft, headquartered in the Chicago suburbs,
than at Mattel, based in the Los Angeles area. He delivered
guest lectures to marketing classes at least annually and
became part of the Dean's Advisory Board, which he describes
as "a fabulous group" ... "a who's who of the business community
also has spoken at Kellogg commencement and during its Pre-term
orientation. "I try to show up any time I can," he says. "I
have found students receptive to wanting to hear the stories
and have an opportunity to chit-chat with us. All it takes
is a little of my time. That's a pretty small investment."
is "particularly proud" of two investments by Mattel, which
supports both the Mattel Children's Hospital at the University
of California-Los Angeles and the Children Affected by AIDS
Foundation, launched by an HIV-positive employee, for which
the company has helped raise more than $20 million in 12 years.
Eckert's philanthropic involvement changed as he rose from
president of Madison, Wis.-based Oscar Mayer Foods, which
"supported many of the civic institutions in Madison," to
group vice president and then CEO of the corporation, which
gives to cultural institutions such as Chicago's Lyric Opera
and Art Institute.
community service and the importance of business in helping
to build community," Eckert says of that array of experiences.
students who have spoken with Eckert have heard stories about
his years at Kraft, which he says "was publicly described
as the sleeping giant of the food industry" when he joined
in 1977. Recognition of this stagnation by the firm's senior
management opened up opportunities for Eckert and his fellow
MBAs, among the first managers recruited aggressively from
business schools. By the time the company was sold to Philip
Morris in the late 1980s, "I don't think anybody would have
described Kraft as the food industry's sleeping giant," he
says. "I think it was the undisputed leader."
the 1990s, his experience at Oscar Mayer gave him "the opportunity
to work in an autonomous unit, physically away from headquarters,"
while Eckert's role as group vice president brought experience
working across areas such as sales, technology and operations
that helped him broaden his perspective and prepared him to
at Mattel, Eckert faced a different challenge: a turnaround
situation at a long-successful company deflated due to the
failed acquisition of an educational software firm. Mattel's
value in 2000 was 75 percent below its peak and continuing
to decline, but its value has doubled in the past four years.
we anticipated never panned out," Eckert says of the acquisition.
"We're back on track now, generating very positive levels
of cash flow and market share."
to Jeffery Vender '98
to Why alumni give back