John M. O’Hara

Distinguished Service Citation Award 1990

John O’Hara, whose leadership helped establish the R.L. Polk Co. as the source authority for automotive industry statistical information, has also been in the forefront of the battle to preserve the public availability of motor vehicle records.

O’Hara, chairman and chief executive officer of R.L. Polk and Company, has directed the firm to record revenues, while at the same time successfully opposing legislation that would have deprived the industry of much-needed access to vehicle registration information.

O’Hara is well qualified to lead such opposition: in 1968, he left the prestigious law firm of Rogers and Wells to become R.L. Polk’s General Counsel. Today, the Polk Company is the largest supplier in the United States of statistical information about vehicle registration, production, sales, and distribution. This data is considered vital in market analysis, direct mail campaigns, and safety recall programs. Under O’Hara’s direction, Polk provides data on more than 80 million of the nation’s 90 million households and on 10 million businesses. The company has more than 6,500 employees in offices in the U.S., Great Britain, Australia, West Germany, and Canada.

O’Hara continues to pursue structural improvements in the company where an increasing emphasis is placed on better methods to select, train, and motivate Polk personnel. He has strengthened Polk with several important acquisitions, including Advertising Unlimited in 1987 and National Demographics and Lifestyles, Inc., in 1989. He prides himself on his decision-making skills, which utilize his abilities to get to the heart of a problem quickly and to have faith in the judgments and decisions of his subordinates, in whom he has delegated substantial authority and responsibility.

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