Young, Robert R., 1897-1958

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1897-02-14
Death 1958-01-25

Biographical notes:

Robert Ralph Young was born on February 14, 1897 in Canadian, Texas, the son of David John Young and Mary Moody. He graduated from Culver Military Academy in 1914 and attended the University of Virginia. After leaving the University in his second year, he married Anita O'Keeffe, the sister of painter Georgia O'Keeffe. They had one child, Eleanor Jane Young. Young began his career with E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Company and subsequently worked for the Allied Chemical Corporation (1916-1920) and the General Motors Corporation (1922-1928). He served, briefly, as chief financial advisor to John J. Raskob of General Motors. In 1929, Young started the brokerage firm of Young, Kolbe, and Company, which was dissolved in 1937. That year Young and a group of investors purchased the Alleghany Corporation, a holding company that owned substantial interests in the Chesapeake & Ohio, Nickel Plate, and Missouri Pacific Railroads. He served as Chairman of the Board of the Alleghany Corporation from 1937 to 1954. From 1954 to 1958, Young served as director and chairman of the board of the New York Central Railroad. Robert Young died on January 25, 1958.

From the description of Robert Ralph Young papers, 1909-1985 (inclusive). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702161045

Robert Ralph Young was born February 14, 1897 in Canadian, Texas, the son of David John Young, president of the First National Bank of Canadian, and Mary Moody. He graduated from Culver Military Academy in 1914 and attended the University of Virginia. After leaving the University in his second year, he married Anita O'Keefe, sister of painter Georgia O'Keefe. They had one child, Eleanor Jane Young, who died in 1941.

A businessman of distinction, Young began his career working for E. I. DuPont de Nemours Company. He later held positions in the financial departments of the Allied Chemical Corporation (1916-1920) and General Motors Corporation (1922-1928). He left General Motors in 1928 to become a financier, serving as chief financial advisor to John J. Raskob. In 1929 he formed the successful brokerage firm of Young, Kolbe, and Company. A conflict between the two partners resulted in the dissolution of the company in 1937.

Young and a group of investors purchased the Alleghany Corporation in 1937. The ailing holding company of Oris and Mantis Van Sweringen held interests in coal mines, trucking companies, over 23,000 miles of railroad tracks, and railroads, most notably the Chesapeake Ohio, Nickel Plate, and Missouri Pacific. He soon became known for his opposition to the control of railroad finance by investment banks.

The first of many battles between Young and the investment bankers began soon after he purchased the Alleghany Corporation. In 1937 the Guaranty Trust Company of New York impounded all income and surplus of the Chesapeake Ohio Railroad. Young fought the trust for control of the company he had purchased. The resulting proxy contest ended in a compromise winning Young a position on the board of directors. The battle began again in 1938 when the Chesapeake Ohio Railroad's bonds were up for renewal. Going against the long standing tradition of control by the investment bankers, Young inaugurated the policy of competitive bidding in the financing of railroad securities.

Young's most famous battle for a railroad began in 1946 when he started buying stock in the New York Central Railroad. Using the Alleghany Corporation and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, Young purchased enough shares to make them the largest stockholders in the company. Young demanded and acquired a position on the New York Central Railroad's board of directors. He later was forced to give up his seat on the board when the Interstate Commerce Commission ruled that his positions on the Alleghany and Chesapeake Ohio boards represented a conflict of interest. Young was temporarily defeated in his attempt to take control of the New York Central.

Young continued to purchase stock in the New York Central Railroad until 1954, when he and his partner, Allen Kirby, became the largest stockholders. He also controlled the stock purchased by Alleghany and the Chesapeake Ohio. After resigning from the Alleghany and Chesapeake Ohio boards, Young demanded control of the New York Central Railroad. The board of directors refused his demands, resulting in proxy contest. The proxy contest for the New York Central Railroad remains one of the most notable proxy contests in American railroad history. Young initiated a media blitz that resulted in his winning control of the railroad by over a million shareholder votes. He took over as director and chairman of the board in 1954.

Robert Young cultivated the image of an outsider opposing Wall Street bankers. His lasting legacy was the initiation of competitive bidding for railroad securities and his masterful use of the proxy contest. Young died by his own hand in 1958.

The papers document the professional career and personal life of businessman Robert R. Young. The collection includes business files that document Young's takeovers of the Alleghany Corporation and the Chesapeake Ohio and New York Central Railroads. The collection also includes a substantial amount of writings. His unpublished autobiography chronicles his childhood, early adulthood, and to a lesser extent, his business career. Young's views on business and other economic matters can be ascertained from his essays, articles, speeches, and statements before Congress. Young's personal papers consist mostly of correspondence to and from relatives and friends. The bulk of the correspondence consists of letters from Young's daughter, Eleanor. Her letters span thirteen years and document the life of a young socialite in the 1930s and 1940s. Also included are a substantial number of photographs of Young, his family, and friends.

From the guide to the Robert Ralph Young papers, 1909-1985, (Manuscripts and Archives)

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http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6jq1sx1
Ark ID:
w6jq1sx1
SNAC ID:
45745832

Subjects:

  • Proxy--United States
  • Railroad companies--United States
  • Proxy
  • Railroads--Management
  • Railroad companies

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)