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he was also legendarily mean, "a mean, nasty, tough bond trader who took no BS from anyone," in the words of his old friend Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation. Simon would awaken his children on weekend mornings by dousing their heads with buckets of cold water. . . . Simon came away from the experience of Watergate with a disgust for the partisan character of the affair, and the capital. The experience of [Nixon's] impeachment convinced him . . . not that partisanship was necessarily poisonous, but that his opponents were far better at partisanship than his side was.
Simmons Mattress Company, a company founded in 1886, was bought by Wesray and partners bought in 1986 for $120 million and sold it in 1989 for $241 million.
Simon was born in Paterson, New Jersey, on November 27, 1927, the son of Eleanor (née Kearns) and Charles Simon, Jr., an insurance executive. He graduated from Newark Academy and, after Service in the U.S. Army (infantry), received his B.A. in 1952 from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. At Lafayette he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Rho chapter).
Simon was a resident of Harding Township, New Jersey. Simon married his first wife, Carol Girard Simon in 1950. william and Carol Simon had two sons and five daughters (Bill Simon, J. Peter Simon, Mary Beth, Carol Leigh, Aimee, Julie Ann, and Johanna Simon) and twenty-seven grandchildren. She died in 1995. Simon married his second wife, Tonia Adams Donnelley in 1996.
He began his career with Union Securities in 1952. He served as Vice President of Weeden & Co. before becoming the senior partner in charge of the Government and Municipal Bond departments at Salomon Brothers, where he was a member of the seven-man Executive Committee of the firm.
At the time of his nomination as Treasury Secretary, Simon was serving as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, a post he had held from January 22, 1973. As Deputy Secretary, he supervised the Nixon administration's program to restructure and improve U.S. financial institutions. He also served as the first Administrator of the Federal Energy Office. From December 4, 1973, Simon simultaneously launched and administered the Federal Energy Administration at the height of the oil embargo. As such he became known as the high-profile "Energy Czar", and represented a revitalization of the "czar" term in U.S. politics. He also chaired the President's Oil Policy Committee and was instrumental in revising the mandatory oil import program in April 1973. Simon was a member of the President's Energy Resources Council and continued to have major responsibility for coordinating both domestic and international Energy policy.
In August 1974, only three months after Simon became Secretary of the Treasury, President Nixon resigned. Simon was asked to continue to serve at Treasury by President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., who shortly afterward appointed him chairman of the Economic Policy Board and chief spokesman for the administration on economic issues.
Simon was an active member of the United States Olympic Committee for many years. He served as treasurer from 1977 to 1981 and as President of the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1981 to 1985, which included the 1984 Games in Sarajevo and Los Angeles. He chaired the U.S. Olympic Foundation, created with the profits of the Los Angeles games, from 1985 through 1997, and was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1991. An additional athletics-related honor came on October 11, 1975, when Simon threw out the first pitch of the 1975 World Series at Boston's Fenway Park on behalf of President Ford.
In 1976, Simon received the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.
In 1977, Simon received the Alexander Hamilton Award, the Treasury Department's highest honor. In 1976, while serving as Secretary of the Treasury, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt presented Simon with the Collar of the Republic/Order of the Nile. Simon's term as Secretary of the Treasury ended on January 20, 1977.
Simon served as President of the John M. Olin Foundation and as trustee of The John Templeton Foundation. He has also served on the boards of many of America's premier think tanks, including The Heritage Foundation and the Hoover Institution. He was the author of two best-selling books, A Time for Truth in 1978 (ghostwritten by libertarian author Edith Efron) and A Time for Action in 1980.
By the late 1980s, Forbes magazine was estimating Simon's wealth at $300 million.
In 1984, he launched WSGP International, which concentrated on Investments in real estate and financial Service organizations in the western United States and on the Pacific Rim. In 1988, together with sons william E. Simon Jr. and J. Peter Simon, he founded william E. Simon & Sons, a global merchant bank with offices in New Jersey, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. The firm is now extensively involved in providing venture capital. In 1990, he partnered with several Investors to form Catterton-Simon Partners, a private equity firm focused on beverages and other consumer products, which today is known as Catterton Partners.
Simon died of complications of pulmonary fibrosis at the age of 72, on June 3, 2000 in Santa Barbara, California. He was buried in Laurel Grove Memorial Park, Totowa, New Jersey. One of his sons, Bill Simon, was the Republican nominee for governor of California in 2002. A daughter, Mary Beth Simon, was married to Dana Streep, brother of Actress Meryl Streep.
Since 2001, the william E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership has been awarded to distinguished living donors, including John T. Walton, John Templeton, and Phil Anschutz.
In 2004, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute dedicated a $40,000 cash prize in honor of Secretary Simon. Each year since, the william E. Simon Fellowship for Noble Purpose has been awarded to a college senior desiring to live a life dedicated to serving humanity.
"Throughout the last century the attachment of businessmen to free enterprise has weakened dramatically as they discovered they could demand – and receive – short-range advantages from the state.... I watched with incredulity as businessmen ran to the government in every crisis, whining for handouts or protection from the very competition that has made this system so productive."
In 2017, william E. Simon & Sons merged with Massy Quick & Company in an all-equity transaction.
In the Anchor Glass case, Simon made millions more through deals with the company wherein the company leased its land, buildings, and equipment from Simon. Wesray also received banking fees for handling the subsequent purchase by Anchor of Midland Glass Company. Anchor Glass also bought casualty, liability, employee health and benefit insurance from a brokerage firm partially owned by Simon. The Anchor Glass corporate headquarters in Tampa was leased from Simon. Anchor Glass later admitted in an SEC filing, that “these arrangements...were not the result of arm’s length bargaining...[and] were not...favorable to the company”. Anchor Glass was finally bought by a Mexican company, Vitro, S.A.