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John Smale, Procter & Gamble CEO, dies

CINCINNATI -- John G. Smale enjoyed his work at Procter & Gamble, throwing himself into it through late nights and weekends as he rose from the toilet goods division to the top of the consumer products giant. Decades later, the company is still reaping the benefits of those long hours and the ideas and plans they helped produce.

The former chief executive and chairman, also a former General Motors Co. chairman, died yesterday in Cincinnati, a P&G spokesman said. He was 84. The Cincinnati-based company didn't immediately give details about how he died.

"Life would be awful long if you were working at something you didn't like to do," Smale, a graduate of Miami University in Ohio, reflected in a 2009 interview with the university's magazine. He said he spent years working until 10 or 11 p.m., and on weekends, "totally immersed in what I was doing" and "having a really good time."

Smale led P&G from 1981 to 1990 and was the seventh chief executive of the 174-year-old company. He also was chairman of General Motors Co. from 1992 to 1995 and was a board member of the automaker for more than two decades, beginning in 1982.

During his tenure, Smale moved P&G businesses into new markets in huge developing countries such as China, setting the stage for P&G's rapid growth in Asia in recent years.

Smale also is credited with boosting the P&G Crest toothpaste brand, successfully gaining American Dental Association approval for the toothpaste and launching a campaign that became an advertising classic: "Look Mom, no cavities!"

The Listowel, Ontario, native spent much of his retirement in Marathon, Fla., where he enjoyed fly-fishing. He said he had been fishing since he was a child and even went fishing on his honeymoon.

Smale married in 1950, and he and his late wife, Phyllis, had four children. Smale credited his wife's support with enabling him to immerse himself into work he enjoyed, often staying on the job late at night and on weekends.

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