10 Things You Didn’t Know About Eric Smidt


Eric Smidt is a name synonymous with success, philanthropy, innovation, and leadership. Best known as the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Harbor Freight Tools, he has ascended to the echelon of American entrepreneurs who not only shape their respective industries but also contribute substantially to social development. He remains an awe-inspiring character in the corporate world, delivering quality at affordable prices—an ethos ingrained into Harbor Freight Tools since its inception.

However, there is more to Eric Smidt than achievements and net worth. This article embarks on a journey to explore ten lesser-known facts about this dynamic entrepreneur.

1. Humble Beginnings

Rather than being born into wealth, Eric Smidt’s story is one of rags to riches. His father, Allan, started Harbor Freight Tools in 1977 as a small, family-owned business. Eric began working there shortly after finishing high school.

Amid the trials of starting a company, Smidt’s grit and determination saw him move from simple tasks to taking on larger responsibilities within the organization. It was during these formative years that he cultivated the business ethic that would mold him into the successful entrepreneur we know today.

2. Family Friction

Despite his growing influence and progressive ideas, Eric’s rise to the mantle of Harbor Freight Tools was not without challenges. He faced strong resistance and a prolonged legal battle with his father.

Despite their estranged relationship for many years, they reconciled before Allan’s death in 2013. Eric, in many interviews, fondly remembers his father as his initial business mentor and accepts that their differences shaped his ethos on business, leadership, and personal relationships.

3. Artistic Affinity

Smidt is known as an astute businessperson, but he’s also an art aficionado with a deep appreciation for artistic expression. He owns an extensive collection of artwork, including some from renowned artists like Salvador Dali.

His love for art prompted him to donate $50 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in 2019. It marked one of the largest donations in the history of the institution and affirmed Smidt’s commitment to supporting artistic creativity and exploration.

4. Philanthropic Drive

Eric Smidt’s generosity extends beyond the realm of art. In 2015, he established the Smidt Foundation, aimed at giving back to society. The foundation’s key focus areas are healthcare, education, veteran affairs, and civic projects.

Through his foundation, Smidt has donated millions of dollars to support various initiatives that foster social and community development. His belief in ‘giving back’ is a testament to his philanthropic spirit and his desire to make a difference in people’s lives.

5. Sustained Success

Success for Eric Smidt has never been a one-time achievement; rather, it stems from consistent productivity. Under his leadership, Harbor Freight Tools has grown from a single showroom into a national chain with over 1,000 stores across America.

His leadership style, centered on quality and affordability, has garnered Harbour Freight Tools a loyal customer base. He believes in satisfying customers with product reliability and excellent service, serving as a foundation for the company’s growth and success.

6. Family Life

In spite of his demanding business, Eric Smidt fiercely guards his family life. He has been married to Susan Patsy Smidt for more than 35 years. They have two children – a son and a daughter.

Smidt’s love for his family is evident in the time and resources he dedicates to keeping them happy. He keeps his family matters private, reflecting his desire to separate his public life from his personal life.

7. Passion for Education

Beyond business and philanthropy, Eric Smidt is passionately committed to educational development. However, his focus is not just on academics. Smidt believes in vocational education and has donated significantly to schools offering trade and technical skills.

Through these contributions, he seeks to empower the next generation of workers, focusing particularly those who might find traditional academic paths challenging. In doing so, he is not just creating a employment-ready workforce, he is shaping the future.

8. Collecting Antique Tools

The CEO of a tool giant, Eric Smidt, surprisingly, is a fan of antique tools. He has a vast collection that spans centuries and continents, providing a glimpse into the evolution of craftsmanship.

Interestingly, Smidt views each tool not just for its utilitarian purpose, but as a piece of artwork. His passion for tools and art merge beautifully in this unique collection, showcasing an aspect of his personality that remains largely hidden from public view.

9. His Vision for Harbor Freight Tools

Eric Smidt’s vision for Harbor Freight Tools involves delivering value to customers. He aims to bridge the gap between quality and affordability. Under his leadership, the company has thrived on the principle of giving customers the best tools at the lowest prices.

Moreover, Smidt’s vision extends to his employees. It is evident in the company’s strong focus on staff development. He believes that a satisfied workforce is crucial to maintaining excellent customer service, essential for sustained business success.

10. Love for Los Angeles

Although a world-renowned entrepreneur, Eric Smidt remains a proud Angeleno at heart. As a lifelong resident of Los Angeles, his affection for the city is evident in his philanthropic endeavors, particularly in the areas of art, education, healthcare, and civic services.

Smidt is committed to making a lasting, positive impact on his city. His love for Los Angeles instills in him a deep sense of responsibility to contribute to its development and welfare.

Eric Smidt is a perfect embodiment of the American dream, showing us that with hard work, determination, and vision, one can truly make a mark in the world. As we delve into his life beyond the executive suite, we uncover facets of his personality that perhaps make him, not just a successful businessman, but an inspiring human being.

Useful Links:

Harbor Freight Tools: Official Website
The Smidt Foundation: Official Website
Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Official Website