Quick Stats: Henry Juszkiewicz, CEO Gibson Guitar Corp.
Daily Driver: 2006 Lexus RX400h (Henry's rating 9.5 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: 1996 BMW Z3 and a 1926 Rolls Royce
Favorite road trip: Driving cross country to California and Florida
Car he learned to drive in: Chevrolet Impala
First car bought: Oldsmobile
Juszkiewicz (back left) and Dave Berryman, President of Gibson with Larry Carlton, Johnny
Henry Juszkiewicz is not just the saavy CEO that brought global awareness to the Gibson Guitar brand, with marketing efforts from renaming Hollywood's Universal Amphitheater down to customizing a Harley with an inlaid Gibson. He is also an executive who got his start in another inbred tribe -- the auto industry.
It was the mid-1970s -- during the country's last oil crisis. Juszkiewicz attended the Flint, Michigan-based General Motors Institute, a five-year coop engineering college. He worked for the Delco division in Rochester, New York, going to school half the time and working the other half.
At Delco, Juszkiewicz held a variety of jobs from installing robots to computer work to injection molding. Upon graduation, he worked two years as a project engineer. But music was also part of his life.
"I loved gadgets and cars and guitars, so it was a lot of fun," he says of his college life. "I had a band at GMI. We used to play all the time -- do gigs around Rochester." Even back then, he played a Gibson.
Juszkiewicz went on to Harvard Business School on a GM fellowship and left the auto industry for investment banking and never looked back. "I wasn't in the right place," he says of his first career choice. "If my ambition was to go up the ladder, which it was, you really had to be in Detroit. There were places you had to be to make it in GM, and I wasn't in one of those places. So that was detrimental, and GM was going through a lot of leadership changes at the time. I was pretty disenchanted with the direction of the corporation."
Car he learned to drive inGrowing up in Rochester, Juszkiewicz learned to drive in his parents' Chevy Impala. He doesn't remember the model year, only that it "had big fins." He adds, "Fortunately, I was not involved in any vehicular accidents."
First car boughtAt GMI, Juszkiewicz bought an Oldsmobile that had a "monster engine," he says. "This was one big car. It had a 500-hp turbocharged engine, it made the Hummer look fuel-efficient. Since I had friends in the business, it was a pretty hot-rodded vehicle."
But it had its problems. "I was driving in the middle of winter through the boonies in Canada, and I tried to start up the car and it wouldn't start, it would just rev up. It turns out GM was experimenting with a new timing gear and decided to use plastic instead of metal. Pretty much every car that had that gear would blow up in three years," Juszkiewicz laughs. "Not in the sense of an explosion, but it was pretty fried because the plastic disintegrated. It went all through everything. It was a major problem."