He began his business career in Kimberly Clark’s management training program, working on “the third shift in a dirty, smelly paper mill,” he writes in his book. After four years there and becoming a project manager, he was hired by Sterling Pulp & Paper as general superintendent and began to turn around his faltering business.
A decade later, he joined American Can in its strategic planning group, then held positions at Lily-Tulip Cup, a large manufacturer of paper cups; Crown Zellerbach, a lumber and pulp company; and Consolidated Press Holdings, an Australian media and publishing company.
He was named Scott’s president and CEO in 1994, taking over a company burdened with high debt and depressed profits. Within two years, he had arranged his sale to Kimberly-Clark for $ 6.8 billion and left to take over Sunbeam.
But in June 1998, Mr. Dunlap’s corporate career came to an end quickly.
Sunbeam’s board fired him following several disappointments with quarterly profits and regulatory filings that showed Sunbeam essentially applied 1998 payments – from retailers buying barbecues – to the previous year’s books, creating a false image of increased sales from 1997.
Shareholders quickly filed a complaint against Mr. Dunlap and the company. With crushing debt, Sunbeam filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
The news continued to worsen for Mr. Dunlap, even in the years following his departure from Sunbeam.
In 2002, he and other Sunbeam executives paid $ 15 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit that accused them of using inflated stock prices to supplement company purchases from Coleman, a manufacturer of camping and leisure products, and First Alert, a manufacturer of smoke detectors.
Later that year, Mr. Dunlap settled a civil lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission accusing him of several counts of accounting fraud that misrepresented Sunbeam’s financial results. He paid a fine of $ 500,000 and agreed to be prohibited from serving again as an officer or director of a company. He neither admitted nor denied the allegations.