CAMDEN, N.J. — David W. Johnson, who led Campbell Soup Co. for nearly a decade during the 1990s, died June 19 in Doylestown, Pa. He was 83 years old.
A native of Australia, Johnson joined Campbell Soup in 1990 as president, chief executive officer and a director, positions he held until 1997. Following a brief retirement, Johnson returned to Campbell Soup for a second stint as president and CEO, from March 2000 to January 2001. He also was chairman of the company’s board of directors from 1993 to 1999.
During his tenure at Campbell Soup, the company sold or closed multiple Campbell Soup operations to reshape the company, including the sale of Paul’s, a Philadelphia-based producer of frozen-fish products, in 1996. He also oversaw several key acquisitions for the company, included Arnott’s, an Australian cookie company; Pace Foods, a Paris, Texas-based salsa maker; and Erasco Group, Germany’s leading canned soup company.
Prior to joining Campbell Soup, Johnson was chairman and CEO of Gerber Products Co. Earlier, he led Entenmann’s under the ownership of both Warner-Lambert and General Foods. He began an eight-year term as head of Entenmann’s in 1979 after the family-owned company was acquired by Warner-Lambert. He became president and CEO of Entenmann’s when General Foods acquired the baking company in 1982. During his leadership, Entenmann’s grew from a regional baker headquartered in Long Island, New York, to one with a national presence.
Before Entenmann’s, Johnson was with Warner-Lambert, first as president of Warner-Lambert/Parke Davis Asia in 1973, then as president of the company’s personal products division in 1976, and finally as president of the American Chicle Division in 1977. He began his career as a management trainee with Colgate-Palmolive International in 1959, later rising to chairman and managing director of South African operations for Colgate-Palmolive International.
Johnson received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Sydney, Australia, and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago.
“We are deeply saddened by David’s passing,” said Denise Morrison, president and CEO of Campbell Soup. “He was an outstanding and charismatic leader. David’s passion for Campbell was always on display during his two tenures at the helm, and he made a lasting impression on so many people. Our thoughts and prayers are with David's family.”
Survivors include his wife and three sons.