James M. Kilts

Former CEO, The Gillette Company

World-class successful CEO.

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James M. Kilts has a worldwide and world-class reputation as a business leader. Dubbed a "brand mechanic" by The Wall Street Journal, he is especially well-known for reviving brands and turning around established companies like Nabisco and Gillette.

"Upon taking office at Gillette, Jim [Kilts] quickly instilled financial discipline, tightened operations and energized marketing, moves that dramatically increased the intrinsic value of the company."
— Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway 2005 Annual Report

Known for his decisive management style and keen focus on business essentials, Mr. Kilts is a proven and invaluable resource on the full range of business topics, including leadership and management, strategy and business growth. He has especially strong and broad success in consumer marketing and branding.

James Kilts delivers results. He successfully integrated the Kraft and General Foods divisions within the Philip Morris Companies. As president and CEO at Nabisco, he revitalized several famous but flagging brands, introduced successful new brands, and gained market share for virtually every product line. He did the same thing as CEO of Gillette, increasing sales 5% in the first year and almost 10% in the next, and increasing stock price by 20%—then led Gillette’s acquisition by Procter & Gamble.

Currently, James M. Kilts is a Founding Partner of Centerview Partners, a private equity and financial advisory firm.

He is the coauthor of Doing What Matters: The Revolutionary Old School Approach to Business Success and Why It Works.

He serves on the boards of several major corporations and institutions.


  • Former Chairman and CEO, The Gillette Company
  • Former executive vice president, Nabisco Holding Corporation
  • Former president, Phillip Morris Companies Food Operations
  • Senior vice president, strategy & development, Kraft USA & Oscar Mayer foods
  • Former president, Kraft General Foods
  • Founder & major donor, Kilts Center for Marketing Research and Chairman, Council on the Graduate School of Business Trustees, University of Chicago
  • Board of Trustees of Knox College


Doing What Matters

How to Get Results That Make a Difference – The Revolutionary Old-School Approach

James M. Kilts, John F. Manfredi and Robert L. Lorber

When Warren Buffet was asked why the Gillette board of directors chose Jim Kilts to be CEO, he said, “Jim made as much sense in terms of talking about business as anybody I’ve ever talked to. If you listen to Jim analyze a business situation you get absolutely no baloney. And, frankly, finding someone like that is a rarity.”

There is only one CEO in recent times who has led three major companies in to prosperous futures by doing what matters on the fundamentals. Those companies are Gillette, Nabisco and Kraft. That CEO is Jim Kilts.

In this vivid first-person account he reveals his system for success. Doing What Matters is groundbreaking back to basics, a clear action plan for identifying and tackling what’s important and ignoring the rest. Jim illustrates his ideas with colorful stories and he focuses on both business fundamentals and the personal attributes that doing what matters requires. Whether you’re CEO of a multi-billion-dollar global company, the brand manager for a product, an entrepreneur starting your own business, or just beginning a business career, this book offers usable wisdom, practical guidance, and inspiration.

Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (5 Jan 2010)
Crown Business (4 Sep 2007)


"Jim Kilts transformed Gillette. Before his arrival, the company was a study in self-deception. Great brands were being mishandled, operational and financial discipline was nonexistent, and fanciful promises to investors were standard practice. In record time, Jim excised those business pathogens. I’ve learned much from Jim. So, too, will readers of this book."
— Warren E. Buffett


James tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

The Keys to Success

Four keys to success:

  • integrity
  • enthusiasm
  • action and understanding
  • effective communication

Four steps in a turnaround:

  • evaluate your company honestly
  • understand your customer
  • analyze, decide, and act quickly
  • personally motivate your team for achievable change


Leadership TraQ


A conference on youth marketing:
Jim Kilts was really good. He offered a good balance and a different perspective that worked. He provided substance, had air to him, good solid content & style. We would recommend him and use him in the future. He would be especially great for a marketing and/or senior-level audience because of his concrete experiences.