Robert J. Pfeiffer, former chairman of A&B and Matson, dies
Robert J. 'Bobby' Pfeiffer, the former long-standing chairman of Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. and of its subsidiary Matson Navigation Co., Inc., died last Friday (Sept. 26) at the age of 83.
Pfeiffer's maritime and business career spanned 58 years, nearly 38 of them with Alexander & Baldwin and Matson.
Pfeiffer began his long association with Matson in 1956, when he was named vice president and general manager of Matcinal Corporation, a Matson stevedoring and terminal subsidiary in Alameda, Calif. In 1973 he was named Matson president and, at the same time, senior vice president of its corporate parent, Alexander & Baldwin.
In 1979, Pfeiffer was named president and chief operating officer of A&B. Less than three months later, in January 1980, A&B appointed him CEO. In October of the same year, he was elected chairman of the board.
Pfeiffer defined A&B's strategy of diversifying the company's real estate assets to complement shipping and sugar businesses.
Pfeiffer “served as A&B's chief executive longer than all but two of his predecessors, and he piloted Matson for 19 years, longer than any of that company's chief executives since its founder, Captain William Matson,” A&B said.
During World War II, Pfeiffer served in the U.S. Navy.
After containerization was introduced on the U.S. West Coast, he was also in charge of negotiating the important “Mechanization and Modernization Agreement” between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union.
Pfeiffer retired as president of A&B in 1991, as CEO in 1992, and, finally, as chairman of the board and director in 1995. He returned to all three posts '' and also to the chairmanship of Matson's board '' in mid-1998, after his successor, John Couch, had to take a medical leave of absence. Pfeiffer retired again as president and CEO after three months and as chairman of A&B and Matson a year later. After stepping down as chairman in 1995, and again in 1999, the boards of both A&B and Matson named him chairman emeritus, and he continued attending their meetings regularly until his health began to fail. He kept regular office hours at Matson headquarters in San Francisco until shortly before his death.