Intel announced yesterday that the company's former CEO and Chairman, Andrew S. Grove, passed away at age 79.
Grove was the first hire of Intel's founders, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, in 1968. He eventually became Intel's president in 1979, picking up CEO duties from 1987 to 1998, and serving as chairman from 1997 to 2005. Grove and his wife, Eva, were married for 58 years and had two daughters and eight grandchildren.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of former Intel Chairman and CEO Andy Grove," Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a statement. "Andy made the impossible happen, time and again, and inspired generations of technologists, entrepreneurs, and business leaders."
Born András Gróf in Budapest, Hungary, Grove immigrated to the U.S. in 1956, having survived Nazi occupation and escaped Soviet repression. He studied chemical engineering at the City College of New York. He completed his Ph.D at the University of California at Berkeley in 1963. That's when Moore hired him for the first time, as a researcher at Fairchild Semiconductor, the legendary Silicon Valley company.
Grove will be remembered for his tactical and strategic brilliance--perhaps, most significantly, his role in moving Intel's focus from memory chips to microprocessors in the early 1990s. This decision, in turn, led to Intel's public transformation, from a company you only knew about if you were a Silicon Valley insider, to a brand that is a household name to consumers. "Under his leadership, Intel produced the chips, including the 386 and Pentium, that helped usher in the PC era," notes the company in its statement. "The company also increased annual revenues from $1.9 billion to more than $26 billion."
In their 2015 book, Strategy Rules, David B. Yoffie of Harvard Business School and Michael A. Cusumano of the MIT Sloan School of Management compared the brilliant strategic approach of Grove to those of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
On the surface, all three seemed like radically different people. Grove was a Holocaust survivor who became an engineer with a PhD; Gates was a geek from a privileged background who dropped out of college; and Jobs was an orphan with more of an artist's or designer's mentality. But as strategic thinkers, the authors argued, they shared several traits--traits that helped them build three of the most extraordinary companies of the past 50 years.
One of the most important traits was an ability to "look forward and reason back," with emphasis on the "reason back" part, Cusumano explained last year, during a talk at HubSpot's annual marketing conference in Boston. It's not uncommon for tech entrepreneurs to "look forward" and speculate with some accuracy about what the next five, 10, or 20 years will look like. But if you can "reason back"--linking your vision of the future to concrete actions in the present--then you have a chance to build a company with long-term impact.
As for Grove, he "reasoned back" during a critical presentation to the Intel board in 1991. As part of a strategic, long-range planning session, Grove argued that the company, in the future, should not build Intel-branded PCs--instead, it should only focus on microprocessors.
Intel remains a powerhouse company to this day. That's in large part because of the strategic foresight--and ability to "reason back"--of its leader whose entrepreneurial legacy stands strong. Which is why today is a day to remember Grove as an extraordinary business leader and thinker whose legacy, even in an era of venerated founders and CEOs, will always stand out.