Phil “Rock” Gumpert, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Tom Lange Family of Companies, after 57 years in the produce industry, is announcing his retirement as CEO, effective December 31st.
The Tom Lange BB #:102175 Board of Directors accepted Rock’s retirement as Chief Executive Officer and confirmed that Rock will remain on the Board of Directors as Chairman.
Rock began his career working for the Wabash Railroad on the St. Louis Produce terminal market handling produce rail cars for the wholesalers on the market.
“Mr. Tom Lange and Mr. Farrell Gay, better known as Dutch, and Paul Beisser approached me about coming to work for Tom Lange Company”, Rock remembers. “I was offered less than what I was making at the railroad, but I took a big leap of faith which would impact and shape the life of me, my family, and so many others to follow. This was some 57 years ago on August 9th, 1964.”
From humble beginnings in St. Louis, Tom Lange Family of Companies has grown into a major player in the world of produce and logistics, both domestically and internationally. Tom Lange Company was one of the first companies to have commodity specialists and in the 1990s invested in their own growing operations.
“One of the first things Mr. Lange told me was that there was a code of ethics in our business: your word is your bond and if you make a commitment, you better damn well do what you said you would do and honor that commitment. Our reputation is paramount to our continued success in this industry and reflects on all facets of what we do not only in business but in our personal lives. I always tried to instill and stress the importance of that trait in all associates.
I have had the good fortune to meet so many great customers, growers/shippers and transportation providers throughout my career and made countless friendships. These relationships helped me, and the company become successful. Tom Lange Family of Companies has also been blessed with so many associates who have exhibited loyalty, commitment, and passion which was instrumental to our early success, as well as the successes of today. I am extremely grateful for all the hard work and dedication that each of them has given to the company every day. As I retire, I feel confident in leaving, knowing that there is a great management team in place.
As proud as I am of the successes of the Tom Lange Family of Companies, what I might be most proud of is that in 1981, Tom, Dutch and I established the Employee Stock Ownership Plan. In 1985, we became 100% employee owned. We understood that our people are our most important asset and we wanted to reward them with company profits in the form of employee stock. The hope was the ESOP would give each associate a vested interest in the success of the company. Looking back today, I take great pride in the decision to put the ESOP in place.”
Becky Wilson, Tom Lange VP Operations has worked with and known Rock for 30 years. “Rock has been my mentor in not only my professional career at Lange but also in my life. I held myself to a higher standard because I wanted to make him proud. His passion and drive for both the company’s and associate’s success are a source of inspiration and is beyond compare. This family of companies and everyone that has worked for them has been so blessed to be a part of his legacy”, said Becky.
Greg Reinauer, Tom Lange President, commented “on behalf of the Board of Directors and current and former employees, we would like to thank Rock for his unwavering commitment to the Tom Lange Family of Companies and its employees, customers, growers, shippers and carriers. Rock’s leadership and ethics have defined our company and established a foundation for the future. I am humbled to have worked with Rock and am proud to call him a friend. I look forward to continuing to work with Rock as our Chairman.”
About the Tom Lange Company
The Tom Lange Company is one of the longest standing employee-owned companies in the produce industry. As one of the largest distributors of fresh produce, Tom Lange serves the retail, wholesale and foodservice trades through an expansive global network of growers, shippers and logistic partners.