The late Harry Phillips was a true pioneer in the modern waste management business. Realizing the efficiencies that could be achieved from consolidating what had historically been a fragmented, mom-and-pop industry under a single corporate roof, Phillips and a few others transformed the waste-disposal business into what it is today: a legitimate multi-billion-dollar international industry.
Starting with a single garbage truck in 1956, Phillips built his first company, Memphis-based Patterson Services, Inc., into a formidable regional player. The fledgling Browning-Ferris Industries, based in Houston, would eventually purchase Patterson Services, largely to gain access to Phillips’ operational expertise, which he used to build BFI into a global powerhouse. Phillips served as COO, CEO, and Chairman of BFI for most of its 30-year existence and helped negotiate its sale to a competitor in 1999 for $9 billion. At the time of its sale, BFI was the second-largest waste-management company in the world, with revenues in excess of $6 billion and operations around the globe.
Although BFI was headquartered in Houston, Phillips remained in his hometown of Memphis, commuting to Houston once weekly throughout his 30-year history with the company. Phillips was extremely well respected in the Memphis business community. Phillips served on the board of the National Bank of Commerce (now part of Sun Trust) for more than 30 years and at various times also sat on the boards of Morgan-Keegan, RFS Hotel Investors, Buckeye Technologies, and Buckman Labs. Phillips was a quiet but enormously generous member of the community. He is listed as a co-founder of the Children’s Museum of Memphis and was especially supportive of the Church Health Center. He served as a trustee at Rhodes College and as a board member of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. An avid duck hunter, Phillips was a lifelong member and supporter of Ducks Unlimited.
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