United Parcel Service (UPS) CEO History


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  • James "Jim" Casey (1907–1962)
  • George D. Smith (1962–1972)
  • Paul Oberkotter (1972–1973)
  • Harold Oberkotter (1973–1980)
  • George Lamb (1980–1984)
  • John W. Rogers (1984–1989)
  • Kent "Oz" Nelson (1989–1996)
  • James P. Kelly (1997–2001)
  • Michael "Mike" Eskew (2002–2007)
  • Scott Davis (2008–2014)
  • David Abney (2014–2020)
  • Carol B. Tomé (2020–current)


Portrait of Jim Casey
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James "Jim" Casey founded the American Messenger Company in 1907, the precursor to United Parcel Service, and led the company as CEO for over five decades until his passing in 1962.

Under his long and pioneering leadership, the small, fledgling delivery startup evolved into a national company and household name.

Casey presided over major milestones such as the company's expansion beyond Seattle to California in 1919 and its first delivery trucks and air routes in the 1920s and 30s.

However, UPS faced struggles during Casey's later years amid rising competition and debts from modernization efforts, leading to a decade of losses before rebounding.

While he built UPS into an industry leader, some critique Casey as overly cautious and slow to innovate compared to competitors.

Nevertheless, by the time of his death, Casey had established both a solid foundation and a lasting legacy for the future success of UPS in the next century.


portrait of George Smith
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George Smith took over leadership of United Parcel Service in 1962 following the passing of iconic founder Jim Casey.

While UPS had grown into a national brand, Smith contended with financial struggles and debts accrued from modernization efforts.

Seeking to expand services, he oversaw the rollout of next-day air delivery in 1969.

However, costs escalated and UPS posted losses nearing $60 million by 1972. With the company verging on bankruptcy, the Board asked Smith to step down.

Though his ambitious vision brought short-term trials, the infrastructure Smith put in place paved the way for the company’s turnaround and renewed prosperity before the end of the decade under subsequent leadership.


Paul Oberkotter
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With United Parcel Service on the brink of financial ruin in 1972, Paul Oberkotter was brought in as an outsider CEO to lead a corporate turnaround.

Though possessing little background with the shipping industry or UPS itself, Oberkotter made the tough decision to raise package rates in a declining economic climate.

This alienated some customers in an already strained environment. Losses mounted beyond the substantial debt inherited from previous leadership.

After just a year attempting to combat the spiraling crisis, Oberkotter was demoted by the Board back to a regional management role.

While likely dealt an impossible task, his brief tenure saw losses accelerate rather than reverse. The Oberkotter era exemplified the depth of challenges facing UPS in avoiding bankruptcy during the early 1970s fiscal nadir.


Portrait of Harold Oberkotter
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With United Parcel Service on the precipice of bankruptcy in 1973, Harold Oberkotter took the reigns with a mandate to save the company.

Though lacking his brother Paul's experience as CEO, Harold brought four decades of UPS operations knowledge.

He quickly discarded Paul’s rate hikes and unveiled bold modernization plans valuing service over short-term profits, starting UPS’s transition from a money-losing firm to one strategically positioned for the future.

By the late 1970s, his vision bore fruit as new packaging, routing, and tracking systems dramatically improved efficiency, allowing UPS to turn its first profit in nearly 15 years.

Though later criticized for missing the rise of overnight deliveries, Oberkotter’s infrastructure overhaul and return to financial stability provided a base for UPS’s surge starting in the 1980s towards market dominance.


portrait of George Lamb
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George Lamb assumed leadership of United Parcel Service in 1980, taking the reins from Harold Oberkotter after back-to-back profitable years.

With much of the infrastructure overhaul complete, Lamb looked to rapidly expand UPS's scale and offerings.

He acquired several companies, introduced new technology, and aggressively targeted commercial delivery contracts.

However, Lamb also continued Oberkotter's commitment to employee ownership and customer service.

The results were mixed—while revenues and volume grew sharply, high costs associated with Lamb's growth initiatives saw profit margins decline compared to his predecessor's tenure. UPS did establish a foothold for national expansion in the 1980s.

But Lamb's perhaps hurried diversification, in contrast to slower measured growth beforehand, highlighted the challenges balancing strategic speed and financial returns.


Portrait of John Rogers
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John Rogers took the reigns at United Parcel Service in 1984, succeeding fast-growth leader George Lamb. Seeking to expand UPS’s technological capabilities, Rogers invested heavily in computer systems for tracking packages, overhauling outdated infrastructure.

However, leveraging technology for gains in efficiency rather than rapid diversification marked a return to UPS’s historically cautious approach.

Still, Rogers set records for profits and saw the company weather a Teamsters strike in 1997.

Marked by fiscally-disciplined innovation, his tenure provided needed stability and reliable returns after UPS’s mixed experiments accelerated growth.

While avoiding risks associated with swift expansion into new sectors, Rogers reinforced UPS’s core shipping business at scale during his half-decade leadership.


Portrait of Oz Nelson
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Kent “Oz” Nelson took the reins at United Parcel Service in 1989, helping usher in a new era of technological innovation.

He oversaw development of package tracking databases and directed early investments in the Internet to upgrade information systems, leveraging emerging technologies to enhance customer service and process efficiency.

Nelson also accelerated UPS’s international footprint by expanding into new markets abroad. However, the company struggled with growing too fast, as new data systems required substantial investments and overseas operations initially operated at losses.

Nelson left his successor both the fruits and continued challenges of rapidly modernizing operations for an increasingly high-tech and global delivery marketplace in the 1990s and beyond.


portrait of James Kelly
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James Kelly assumed leadership at United Parcel Service in 1997, inheriting innovative but costly technology systems and growing global infrastructure from his predecessor Oz Nelson.

Seeking to translate these investments into profitability, Kelly oversaw negotiations throughout a 16-day Teamsters strike, preserving UPS’s expansive automation investments.

In Kelly’s final years, the dot com boom provided a windfall for package shipments, validating UPS’s nationwide infrastructure built to meet demand.

But the bubble soon burst - Kelly retired amidst the turbulence of September 11th and a declining economy, leaving his successor to navigate challenges closing the century.

During Kelly’s tenure, UPS realized some fruits of technological advancement and globalization while confronting the costs and risks of that rapid transformation.


portrait of Mike Eskew
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Mike Eskew took the helm at United Parcel Service in 2002 following CEO Jim Kelly’s retirement on the heels of September 11th's industry turmoil.

Eskew steered UPS through economic and geopolitical instability, including recession and war. Seeking strategic advantages, Eskew oversaw partnerships with competitors like FedEx to expand UPS services globally.

Domestically he grew UPS retail access points.

Results were mixed—while UPS revenues rose steadily, so did debts and labor costs.

Eskew invested substantially in emerging markets positioning UPS for long run growth. But flexibility managing volatile global conditions largely defined his tenure rather than unfettered expansion enjoyed in prior boom times.

Eskew’s stewardship emphasized patience and calculated risks as UPSCharted an uncertain 21st century course.


portrait of Scott Davis
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Scott Davis took the reins at United Parcel Service in 2008, inheriting global infrastructure from CEO Mike Eskew just as the Great Recession upended markets.

Economic calamities stifled shipping demand and trade, testing UPS’s expansive capabilities built for growth.

Adapting operations and eliminating costs became Davis’ imperative amidst crisis management, while laying technology foundations for the future.

Results were mixed as UPS weathered turbulent seas of the late-2000s but required stiff austerity hampering investments and morale.

As recovery took hold in Davis’s final years, momentum slowly rebuilt despite lingering recessionary headwinds.

Though dealt a difficult hand, Davis sustained UPS’s global stature through lean times, failing to expand upon it during relative stability before passing leadership in 2014.


portrait of David Abney
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David Abney succeeded CEO Scott Davis at United Parcel Service in 2014 after years serving in senior leadership roles including Chief Operating Officer.

Guiding UPS through an era of booming e-commerce, Abney took the helm focusing on leveraging technology for consumer deliveries and operational efficiencies.

Under his leadership, UPS expanded weekend operations, developed proprietary routing systems to optimize trucks, and even acquired drone maker Carbonite to position for future air transport.

However Abney faced challenges expanding margins to reward UPS's sizable infrastructure even as revenues climbed.

Lacking either crisis or unfettered prosperity defining predecessors’ tenures, Abney provided steady leadership broadly sustaining UPS’s industry perch yet unable to disruptively transform legacy business models in the digital age.


portrait of Carol Tomé
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Carol Tomé became United Parcel Service's first female CEO in 2020, taking charge amidst the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

Inheriting a shipping giant long focused on business deliveries, Tomé steered UPS to capitalize on booming residential e-commerce activity under lockdowns.

Leveraging surging home volumes helped revenue, though UPS still lags adapting legacy networks to shifting consumer patterns.

Under Tomé's leadership UPS is belatedly transitioning towards electric vehicles and modernizing outdated technology infrastructure to better compete in the digital marketplace.

While too early for definitive assessment, she has thus far provided steady leadership amplifying tailwinds already stirring significant change for the shipping titan.

Though facing her own historic challenges, Tomé’s tenure may plant seeds for UPS’s transformation to finally disrupt the industry it has long dominated.