William C. “Billy” Durant was a former carriage maker from Flint, Michigan, whose Durant-Dort Carriage Company had taken control of the ailing Buick Motor Company, when on September 16, 1908, Durant incorporated Buick into a new entity, General Motors, which by the end of that decade had welcomed other leading auto manufacturers, including Oldsmobile, Cadillac and Oakland, into the corporation.
In 1910, with the company in financial trouble, stockholders blamed the problems on Durant’s expansionism and forced him out. Never one to give up, Durant formed the Chevrolet Motor Company, named for his partner, the Swiss race car driver Louis Chevrolet, in November 1911.
Durant still owned a considerable amount of GM stock, and began to purchase more shares as his profits from Chevrolet grew. To regain control, Durant offered GM stockholders five shares of Chevrolet stock for a single share of GM stock, and although GM stock value was incredibly high for the day, interest in Chevrolet’s stock made the five-for-one trade irresistible. As also mentioned in Yahoo! Auto News, this is the anniversary of that closing on May 2, 1918, when Durant took back control of GM.
His revenge did not last long though. Only two years later, Durant’s control of the company was taken by Pierre S. DuPont (of the powerful chemical company by the same name) who had been buying GM stock for years. DuPont soon paid off all of Durant’s debt, and the controversial company founder left the company for good.
Durant refused to give up on the automotive industry, though. He founded Durant Motors in 1921 and produced a line of cars for the next decade. The Great Depression in the early 1930s put an end to his company, and Durant then operated bowling alleys near the Buick complex in Flint, Michigan. These flopped eventually, and he spent much of the remainder of his life in anonymity. Durant passed away on March 18, 1947, at the age of 85. Hats off to William C. “Billy” Durant from all of us at ChevyHardcore.com.