Bill Mendello, Rutgers MBA grad and Fender CEO from 2005-2010, helped build the musical instrument icon to be ready to go public this year
Fender, there are few more recognizable name brands in the world. Rutgers MBA alumnus Bill Mendello, a self-described "Jersey kid from Paterson," was instrumental in guiding the iconic brand over the past 30 years, his final five years as CEO (2005-2010). The Fender Stratocaster has been the guitar of choice by legends like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, The Edge, George Harrison and Jimmie Hendrix.
But Fender came close to being a footnote in 20th Century culture like Woolworths or Pan Am. Bought by CBS in 1965 for $13 million, Fender struggled to keep its identity in a stifling corporate culture that didn't understand music or finicky musicians. The guitar giant suffered difficult losses in 1977-1981 at a time when CBS companies were cut loose for losing money. The upstart Japanese guitar company Yamaha was making high-quality guitars cheaper than Fender allowing it to gain market share in the United States.
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