George Pratt Shultz was an American economist, businessman, diplomat and statesman. He served in various positions under two different Republican presidents and is one of the only two persons to have held four different Cabinet-level posts, the other being Elliot Richardson. Shultz played a major role in shaping the foreign policy of the Ronald Reagan administration. From 1974 to 1982, he was an executive of the Bechtel Group, an engineering and services company. From 2011 to 2015, Shultz was a member of the board of directors at Theranos, misleading investors into investing in the company's fraudulent technology and going so far as pressuring his whistleblower grandson to remain silent about his accusations.
Born in New York City, he graduated from Princeton University before serving in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. After the war, Shultz earned a PhD in industrial economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He taught at MIT from 1948 to 1957, taking a leave of absence in 1955 to take a position on President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Council of Economic Advisers. After serving as dean of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, he accepted President Richard Nixon's appointment as United States Secretary of Labor. In that position, he imposed the Philadelphia Plan on construction contractors who refused to accept black members, marking the first use of racial quotas by the federal government. In 1970, he became the first director of the Office of Management and Budget, and he served in that position until his appointment as United States Secretary of the Treasury in 1972. In that role, Shultz supported the Nixon shock, which sought to revive the ailing economy in part by abolishing the gold standard, and presided over the end of the Bretton Woods system.
Shultz left the Nixon administration in 1974 to become an executive at Bechtel. After becoming president and director of that company, he accepted President Ronald Reagan's offer to serve as United States Secretary of State. He held that office from 1982 to 1989. Shultz pushed for Reagan to establish relations with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which led to a thaw between the United States and the Soviet Union. He opposed the U.S. aid to Contras trying to overthrow the Sandinistas by using funds from an illegal sale of weapons to Iran. This aid led to the Iran–Contra affair.
Shultz retired from public office in 1989 but remained active in business and politics. He served as an informal adviser to George W. Bush and helped formulate the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war. He served on the Global Commission on Drug Policy, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Economic Recovery Council, and on the boards of Bechtel and the Charles Schwab Corporation.
Beginning in 2013, Shultz advocated for a revenue-neutral carbon tax as the most economically sound means of mitigating anthropogenic climate change. He was a member of the Hoover Institution, the Institute for International Economics, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and other groups. He was also a prominent and hands-on board member of Theranos, which defrauded more than $700 million from its investors before it collapsed. His grandson Tyler Shultz worked at the company before becoming a whistleblower about the fraudulent technology.