James Ling Biography

Business Leader (1922–2004)
James Ling was the longtime head of Ling-Temco-Vought, also known as LTV.


Born in Oklahoma in 1922, James Ling was a U.S. businessman and the longtime head of Ling-Temco-Vought, also known as LTV. As the 1960s progressed, Ling continued to bring other businesses into the LTV fold, including Wilson and Company and Greatamerica Corporation. Business success in takeovers helped make Ling both famous and wealthy. He died in Dallas, Texas, in 2004.

Early Life

Born on December 31, 1922, in Hugo, Oklahoma, James Joseph Ling—who was generally known as James Ling or Jimmy Ling—was one of the most famous business leaders of the 1960s. His parents were Henry William and Mary Jones Ling. Henry was a devoted Catholic who once got into a fight with a fellow railroad employee over religion. He ended up killing the man.

Though he was put on trial for the death, Ling's father was found not guilty when the jury ruled he had acted in self-defense. However, Henry was so affected by his actions that he eventually left his family to live in a monastery. Ling lost his mother when he was 11 years old. For the rest of his youth, he was cared for by relatives.

Budding Entrepreneur

Though he never completed high school, Ling was a fast learner. He managed to become a skilled electrician after a six-month apprenticeship, a process that usually took years. In 1944, he joined the U.S. Navy. Ling used his electrician skills while stationed in the Philippines.

After being discharged from the navy in 1946, Ling soon started his own business, Ling Electrical. He was bringing in more than $1 million a year in sales by the mid-1950s. Wanting to expand, Ling decided to sell shares in his business; one of the places where he distributed the company's prospectus was at the Texas State Fair. According to The New York Times, Ling managed to sell approximately $738,000 worth of stock in 90 days.

The Conglomerate King

With the funds brought in by his stock offering, Ling began acquiring other companies. By the end of the 1950s, he had scored his first major takeover victory: Ling bought the much larger Altec, a sound system maker. Altec's size and prestige led to Ling changing the name of his company to Ling-Altec Electronics.

In 1960, Ling added to his business empire by merging with Temco Inc., a military aircraft manufacturer; his business became known as Ling-Temco. Ling then set his sights on Chance Vought, another military aircraft contractor. An ugly public battle for control followed, but Ling emerged triumphant.

Ling's business was renamed Ling-Temco-Vought, and soon became known as LTV. As the 1960s progressed, Ling continued to bring other businesses into the LTV fold. These acquisitions included Wilson and Company, owner of the Wilson line of sporting goods and other interests, and Greatamerica Corporation, the parent company for Braniff Airways and National Car Rental.

Fall of the King

However, one takeover proved to be Ling's undoing. After buying Jones and Laughlin Steel, Ling found that LTV was the target of an antitrust investigation launched by the government in 1969. Faced with this legal trouble, Ling soon witnessed his company's stock price take a tumble. He was forced to resign from the company in 1970. Ling tried other business ventures afterward, but none matched his earlier success.

Personal Life

Business success in takeovers helped make Ling famous, as well as very rich. With his wife, Dorothy, Ling built a palatial home in Dallas, Texas. Ling later sold the mansion following his business difficulties.

In the early 1980s, Ling was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome. He struggled to regain his health after dealing with a severe occurrence of the disease. In 1991, Ling lost his wife. Ling was 81 when he died on December 17, 2004, in Dallas.

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