News

October 13, 2008

Business Success Provides Time to Serve For Greer Arthur ’56

He’s founded and sold two maritime container businesses in past dozen years

Fresh off the sale of his company, Trans Ocean Distribution (TOD), Greer Arthur ’56 is devoting time to the World Presidents’ Organization, the San Francisco Opera, and other nonprofits. He’s also working with his sons on several real estate development projects.

TOD transported bulk liquids in plastic bladders placed inside standard maritime containers. Arthur sold it to JF Hillebrand Group, a global provider of logistic services to the beverage industry.

“Hillebrand is the biggest mover of bottled wine in the world,” he says. “Meanwhile, Trans Ocean was transporting thousands of maritime containers of wine and other liquids in bulk. Each container carried 6,500 gallons. It’s much less expensive moving the liquids across the ocean in these containers than it is to do so in bottles or other small units.”

In addition to wine, TOD shipped juice concentrates, petroleum products, and other non-hazardous liquids and chemicals. After the 2004 tsunami in Asia left many villages without potable or usable water, the company aided in the relief effort by transporting containers filled with water to villages.

Reflecting on his success in the maritime shipping industry, Arthur admits he couldn’t have imagined the course his life would take.

After spending his early years in Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois, he attended high school in Long Island, N.Y. He enrolled at Lafayette, where his great-grandfather attended in the 1860s (and, according to records Arthur has seen, paid $11 for tuition and 75 cents for firewood). After graduating, he attended Columbia Law rather than business school

“My father didn’t have a business education, and he became a successful executive at Kinney,” he explains.

He practiced law with a New York firm for a short time. Then through the efforts of a close friend, Arthur was interviewed by and received an offer from a top business consulting firm based on nothing more than his Lafayette and Columbia degrees and part-time positions selling shoes at Kinney stores. He immediately parlayed that offer into an interview with McKinsey and Company, which also offered him a job. Following five years there, Greer joined Scoville Manufacturing, a McKinsey client, spending most of his time in Paris at a French subsidiary.

When he returned to the States, a couple of former McKinsey colleagues recruited Arthur to help launch a worldwide maritime container leasing company. At the time, there were 15,000 containers in the world; today there are 25 million. In the rapidly growing market, Arthur grew the company to a 10 percent market share by 1973, after which he started Trans Ocean Ltd.

That business also grew quickly and was an innovator in specialized containers. By the mid-’90s, it had 21 offices and several hundred depots around the world with employees of 28 different nationalities. In 1996, Arthur sold the company to Trans America Corporation, retaining Trans Ocean Distribution.

Arthur and his wife, Veronica, live in Woodside on the San Francisco Peninsula, Calif. They enjoy many sports, including skiing, tennis, golf, biking, boating, and whitewater rafting, many of which they pursue with their family of four children and eight grandchildren.

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