FORMER KMART CHAIRMAN, HARRY B. CUNNINGHAM, DIES
/REPEATING FROM EARLIER/
TROY, Mich., Nov. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Kmart Corporation (NYSE: KM) today announced that Harry B. Cunningham, honorary chairman of the board of Kmart Corporation, died in his sleep last night at his home in North Palm Beach, Fla., at the age of 85.
Mr. Cunningham built a million-dollar variety store chain into a multi-billion-dollar mass merchandising firm by creating Kmart discount department stores.
"Harry Cunningham's vision, creativity and leadership have reshaped the world of retailing. His contributions to Kmart Corporation will long be remembered by all who had the pleasure of working with him," said Joseph E. Antonini, Kmart chairman, president and CEO.
A native of Home Camp, Pa., Mr. Cunningham left college after completing his sophomore year at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, to accept a job with a daily newspaper in Harrisburg, Pa. A year later he entered Kmart's management training program in Lynchburg, Va. He became a store manager in 1940 and a district manager in 1947.
In 1951, his spectacular rise to success began when he was promoted to assistant sales director at the company's headquarters. Mr. Cunningham proposed that the company experiment with the checkout system which had gained great popularity in grocery supermarkets. Checkout operation became an important factor in the company's success when it opened stores in new suburban shopping centers in the 1950s and led to the chain's current retail automation program.
When Mr. Cunningham became Kmart's top merchant -- its sales director -- in 1953, the firm's sales were $377 million and there were 692 variety stores.
Mr. Cunningham was asked to sit in on the board of directors' meetings and in 1956 was made a director.
In 1957, a new executive post was created in the company and given to Mr. Cunningham -- general vice president. His job was, basically, to increase the profitability of the firm by finding new endeavors. After two years of study, he was certain discounting was that new endeavor for the company.
He was elected to the presidency in 1959. Two years later he was responsible for launching a new retail division -- small discount stores called Jupiter and, in 1962, for the creation of the first Kmart discount department store.
The final step in his rise to the top was his election to chairman of the board in 1967.
Mr. Cunningham held the two top posts in the Kmart Corporation -- chairman and president -- until 1970 when he resigned as president. He relinquished the chairmanship in 1972, remaining a director and member of the executive compensation, stock option and finance committees. He was named honorary chairman in 1973.
When Kmart was born, company sales were $483 million. In 1991, Kmart sales totaled $35 billion. Currently, there are 4,000 Kmart-owned specialty and general merchandise stores in all 50 of the United States, Puerto Rico, Australia, Canada and Czechoslovakia.
Mr. Cunningham was on the boards of Kmart Canada Limited, Kmart (Australia) Limited, Bendix Corporation, National Bank of Detroit, Warner-Lambert Company, Burroughs Corporation and National Steel Corporation.
He was a director of the Detroit Symphony, Detroit United Foundation, Smithsonian Associates, a trustee of Junior Achievement and Citizens Research Council of Michigan, and a member of the advisory council -- Graduate School of Business Administration, Michigan State University.
Mr. Cunningham received honorary doctorate degrees from Miami University, Hillsdale College and Tri-State College.
Mr. Cunningham was a member of Delta Upsilon, the Detroit Club, Detroit Athletic Club, Bloomfield Hills Country Club and Orchard Lake Country Club, as well as Lost Tree Club -- North Palm Beach.
Mr. Cunningham is survived by his widow, the former Margaret Diefendorf; three daughters, Jane (Mrs. William Herrington), Sally (Mrs. Gary Downey), and Ann (Mrs. James Glime); a brother Norman; three sisters, Virginia, Mabel (Mrs. William Graham), and Nellie (Mrs. James Kauffman); and grandchildren.
Private funeral services will be held for members of the family.
/CONTACT: Mary Lorencz, manager, public communications, Kmart Corporation, 313-643-1021/
(KM) CO: Kmart Corporation ST: Michigan, Florida IN: REA SU: 651 11-12-92 15:04 EST KE-SM -- DE023 -- 0323 11/12/92 15:44 EST