PALM SPRINGS, Calif.—Leon R. Brodeur, former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. president and vice chairman, died Jan. 29 at his home in Palm Springs. He was 87.
Brodeur was born in Manchester, N.H., and after serving the Army from 1945-47, he graduated from St. Anselm's College with a bachelor's degree with a focus on chemistry and math.
He started his career with Firestone in 1951 as a processing control chemist at the firm's synthetic rubber plant in Akron. He became Firestone Tire Co. president in 1979, a group vice president in 1980 and later an executive vice president.
In 1982 Brodeur was named president and chief operating officer of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. and a board member. He was elected vice chairman in 1984, before retiring in 1985. During his career he served on the board of the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
During his tenure as president and COO at Firestone, Brodeur worked under John Nevin, hired in 1979 as CEO and chairman. Nevin was brought into do a massive restructuring on Firestone, making the decision to close many plants and exit numerous businesses. His moves led to Firestone being sold to Bridgestone Corp. in 1988.
During a 1996 interview, Brodeur, said he supported most of Nevin's decisions. “What he did made him very unpopular but he had to do it,” he said. “You've got to separate the man from the job.”
But Brodeur also cautiously spoke of what he saw as one of Nevin's flaws: a lack of sensitivity at times.
Brodeur remembered a time when Nevin told a reporter that Firestone's management team consisted of a bunch of clones. Nevin, who died in 2006, admitted he had said it and recalled how Brodeur and the other Firestone officials made him aware of his blunder. At the next board meeting, the officials all dressed exactly the same—in blue suits, white shirts and red Firestone ties.
After retirement, Brodeur did consulting work, particularly on the board of a local chemical company that went international and became known as OMG.
He was an avid golfer, and until 2012 held the third oldest membership at Firestone Country Club in Akron. Brodeur also was a horse lover, having co-owned race horses with Thomas J. Reese, another former Firestone executive.
He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Helen; sons Ken and Steve; daughter Michelle; and two granddaughters.
A memorial mass will be celebrated on March 20 at his home parish of St. Hilary Catholic Church in Fairlawn, Ohio, a suburb of Akron.