RETAIL TRADE: The Man at the Top

If anybody ventures to differ with me, I throw them out the window.

In this uncompromising and ungrammatical way, Sewell Lee Avery once pronounced his business credo. For 50 of his 86 years a chief executive, Sewell Avery was the epitome of the autocratic tycoon who believed there was room at the top for only one. He battled the growth of labor unions, the New Deal and his own executives. (In 24 years as boss of Montgomery Ward, he had four presidents and 40 vice presidents exit suddenly.) One of the few battles he...

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