Robert Galvin, who led Motorola Inc. as chief executive officer for 29 years, died at the age of 89.
He “died peacefully” during the night of Oct. 11, the Galvin family said in a statement today.
Galvin, the son of Motorola founder Paul Galvin, took over a two-way radio and communications company with annual sales of $290 million in 1959 when his father died. By the time he left the company as chairman in 1990, he had turned Motorola into a wireless-telephone pioneer with revenue of $10.8 billion.
“The world lost one of the all-time greats,” Greg Brown, CEO of Schaumburg, Illinois-based Motorola Solutions Inc., said in an interview. “He was one of a kind.”
Motorola split in January following pressure from investors led by Carl Icahn to boost performance amid a handset sales slump. The mobile-phone unit was spun off as Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. led by Sanjay Jha in Libertyville, Illinois, while the remaining business was renamed Motorola Solutions.
“Today we lost a transformative leader and a visionary,” Jha said in an e-mailed statement.
Jha agreed in August to sell Motorola Mobility to Google Inc. (GOOG) for about $12.5 billion.
Galvin, born in 1922 in Marshfield, Wisconsin, went to high school in Illinois and to the University of Notre Dame before joining Motorola in 1944. He led the expansion of Motorola’s walkie-talkie and paging businesses and the company developed the first mobile-phone prototype in 1971 under his watch.
That led to the commercialization of Motorola’s DynaTAC in 1983, which was the forerunner of phones like the StarTAC that made Motorola a handset leader in the 1990s. Simultaneously Galvin pushed the company into new markets in Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia and China throughout the 1980s.
In retirement, Galvin established two research institutes devoted to electricity, transportation and infrastructure policy, as well as writing, the family said. He is survived by sons Chris and Michael, daughters Gail and Dawn and 13 grandchildren.
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