Donaldson Brown

Donaldson Brown (1885-1965) graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1902, did graduate work in engineering at Cornell, and joined DuPont in 1909 as an Explosives Salesman.

His financial acumen became apparent in 1912 when he submitted an efficiency report to the Executive Committee that utilized a return on investment formula.

Treasurer John J. Raskob took Brown under his wing and encouraged him to develop uniform accounting procedures and other standard statistical formulas that enabled division managers to evaluate performance companywide despite the great diversification of the late 1910s.

In 1918 Brown helped Raskob execute DuPont’s heavy investment in General Motors stock, and when he took over the treasurer’s office from Raskob the same year, he brought in economists and statisticians, an exceptional practice at the time. Brown joined the Executive Committee in 1920.

By 1921 DuPont had gained a controlling interest in the flagging General Motors Corporation, and Pierre du Pont made Brown GM’s vice president of finance.

Brown helped bring about GM’s financial recovery and in 1923 he developed the mechanisms that allowed DuPont to retain the GM investment.

Brown was appointed to GM’s Executive Committee in 1924, and working with President Alfred P. Sloan, he refined the cost accounting techniques that he had been developing at DuPont.

The principles of return on investment, return on equity, forecasting, and flexible budgeting were subsequently widely adopted in corporate America.

Brown retired as an active executive of GM in 1946 but remained on the boards of both GM and DuPont.

In 1959 he was one of four DuPont directors who resigned from GM’s board due to the Supreme Court’s 1959 antitrust decision.

source: duPont Heritage