William R. Johnson is president, CEO and chairman of H. J. Heinz.
He worked at Drackett as an assistant product manager for Behold furniture polish, starting at $13,000 a year. He worked at Ralston, Frito-Lay and Anderson-Clayton Foods before joining Heinz in 1982 as general manager of new business.
In 1988, as president and CEO of the poorly-performing Heinz Pet Products, he turned around a poorly-performing operation which some analysts had proclaimed unsalvageable. In 1992, he did the same thing at the highly-visible Starkist Foods. In 1993 he was named senior vice president and director, in 1996 president and COO, and in 1998, named president and CEO. In 2000, he became chairman as well.
Johnson is fiscally conservative, focusing on cost-containment, and the performance of major brands, as he faces stiff competition and pricing demands from wholesalers. He is described by coworkers as incredibly intense; he agrees with that assessment.
He credits his father, Bill "Tiger" Johnson with instilling him with a fiercely competitive spirit and a passionate desire to win. Tiger Johnson was a center for the San Francisco 49ers and then head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. Johnson also learned motivation from his father and other coaches. In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he told reporter Patricia Sabatini that, "Some people need to be handled gently. Other people you can kick in the rear end" (May 18, 1998).
Johnson was born in, grew up in Palo Alto, and married his wife, Susie, in 1974. They have two children.