Shelby Forthright was the CEO of the megacorporation Buy n Large in the early 22nd century. Under his lead, he pushed his company to expand its efforts in making humanity's world easier, more comfortable and pleasant and the company gained global leadership. However, with its advancements in technology, the corporation caused garbage problems on the planet to amass due to consumerism facilitating the corporation. In 2105, Forthright came up with a plan to evacuate Earth, as it was too choked with trash. He also proposed Operation Recolonize, in which trash compactor robots and mobile incinerators would clean up the Earth while humanity stayed aboard starships like the Axiom. However, after a few years, an exhausted and disappointed Forthright was convinced that the operation had failed. He felt like the air was too toxic to supply life on Earth, so he decided to cancel the operation and left mankind to move on in space forever.
He ordered all planet bound machines turned off (though one was missed), and secretly sent Directive A-113 to all AUTO units without informing the other BnL pilots. After the evacuation of Earth, Shelby Forthright's fate is left unknown though it is implied that he left aboard a ship to join the citizens in space, since he is heard saying, "Let's get out of here!" when he puts on an oxygen anti-toxic mask before walking off and died many years later.
It turned out that Shelby's conclusion that life on Earth was no longer sustainable was incorrect; nearly 700 years after his final message was sent out, a single sprout was discovered by the last remaining WALL-E and brought onboard the Axiom, leading to the ship's return to the planet and it's passenger's rebuilding of civilization.
Forthright is presumably dead by the time WALL-E began, as it had been 700 years since he had ordered the pilots to stay in space.
He is the first (and so far, only) live-action character to appear in any Pixar production. Director Andrew Stanton shot Fred Willard's scenes personally and described Forthright as "[a] lovable car salesman."
His name is a play on the phrase "shall be forthright".
Him standing at a mike podium in a front of a blue curtain with the Buy "N' Large logo on it is a parody of how the United States President does news conferences.