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A Friendly Life is the autobiography of S. Prestley Blake, co-founder of the Friendly Ice Cream Corporation, a large chain of family restaurants. Pres is currently 96 years old and remains a no-nonsense, take-charge kind of guy.
Pres Blake and his brother Curtis started Friendly Ice Cream in 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression. With $540 initial capital from their parents, Pres and Curtis worked day and night in their tiny shop. This small business kept expanding, and over time, grew to a 500-plus restaurant chain. The Blake brothers invoked straightforward business principles to guide their growth, and with hard work and good advice from other business people, they were able to succeed, as Pres says, “beyond our wildest dreams.” After 40 years, they sold Friendly’s to the Hershey Corporation. Pres’s message to young entrepreneurs: "Work hard, look for opportunities, mind your manners, and stay smart. If I could do it, so can you."
Once retired, Pres embarked on a series of grand adventures, involving his fascination with fine motorcars, exploring the world, and philanthropy.
But at age 86, Pres was roused to come back and save Friendly’s, his "baby," from the investors who had bought it from Hershey. He launched a shareholder derivative suit to challenge the management of the company. Seven years and eleven million dollars later, Pres got what he had hoped for: a new owner of the company who would handle Friendly’s with care.
Harvard Business School has included the story of Pres’s lawsuit as a management case study in corporate governance.
A Friendly Life is a fascinating portrait of a man whose life has been guided by his principles. The book reminds us that you’re never too old to fight for what you believe is right.
S. Prestley Blake, at age 96, divides his time between homes in Florida and Connecticut, enjoys visits from his many friends around the world, still sails occasionally, and still dabbles in Rolls-Royces. He loves hearing from former employees. Every August he attends the retiree’s picnic, and occasionally, dressed jauntily in bow tie and blazer, he pays a visit to Friendly’s manufacturing plant n Wilbraham, Massachusetts. Pres and his wife Helen support many causes, giving away $1.5 million a year. He especially enjoys speaking to audiences of young people, telling them that they, too, can enjoy a successful life if they work hard and play by the rules.
Alan Farnham is currently covering business stories for ABCNews.com. He previously worked for Forbes magazine as senior editor, overseeing lifestyle coverage. Prior to that he was a senior writer at ortune for 13 years. His books include Guts: The Seven Laws of Business That Made Chrysler the World’s Hottest Car Company (John Wiley & Sons, 1998), ghost-written for Chrysler’s then-vice chairman Robert Lutz; and Forbes Great Success Stories:Twelve Tales of Victory Wrested from Defeat (John Wiley & Sons, 2000), written under his own byline.
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