George Grune, who rose from ad salesman at Reader's Digest Association to CEO, died April 17 in Jacksonville, Fla., after complications from open heart surgery. He was 83.
Mr. Grune helped lead a turnaround at Reader's Digest Association, where he was named chairman-CEO in 1984, by developing the company's first strategic plan, modernizing its image and positioning it as a global player. By 1990, the year the company went public, Reader's Digest Association was enjoying record profits at home and abroad. Mr. Grune retired in 1995.
George Vincent Grune was born in White Plains, N.Y., and graduated from Duke University, where he attended on a football scholarship, in 1952 with a bachelor's degree in English. He served in the Marine Corps for two years, completed two years of law school at University of Florida and worked briefly for the Continental Can Company before joining Reader's Digest Association in 1960.
An emphasis on research, strategic planning and marketing helped catch superiors' attention, and Mr. Grune worked in various divisions and offices before being named to the board in 1977 and later to the company's top positions, from which he led an expansion into Russia after the Soviet Union collapsed.
Reader's Digest Association struggled again after his first departure from the executive suite, leading to a nine-month return as acting CEO starting in 1997.
Mr. Grune supported charities including local YMCAs and the Boys and Girls Club of America, where he was national chairman in the early 1990s. He was named publisher of the year by the Magazine Publishers of America and was named to the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
He is survived by his wife, Betty Lu, three sons and daughter-in-laws and nine grandchildren: George, Jr., and Judy Grune with children Heather, Lindsey and George III; Robert and Joan Grune with children Alexandra, Bud and Jordan; and Steven and Nancy Grune with children Steven, Jr., Natalie and Kevin.