Richard Egan, a pioneering entrepreneur in the field of data storage known for his hyper-competitive personality, died on August 28 at the age of 73. Though Egan had previously been diagnosed with lung cancer, the cause of death, according to a police source cited by the Boston Globe, was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Born to a blue-collar family in Boston, Egan served in the Marine Corps in the 1950s, before going to college on the G.I. Bill. He subsequently earned a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked on a guidance system used by the space program. After a series of jobs in technology, Egan and Roger Marino cofounded EMC Corp., a company now based in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, in 1979. The company initially sold office furniture before graduating into computing equipment and finally data storage.
A profile published in Inc. in 1994 recounted the company's evolution. "It was while Egan was paying a sales call one day at the University of Rhode Island, trying to sell a DEC-compatible memory system made by Intel, that he found out what the university's lab really needed was more memory, at a better price, for its Prime Computer systems," the journalist David Whitford wrote. "'We figured out how to do it,' Egan says, 'and hit the market with that, and we were off and running."
EMC went public in 1986 and was, according to one analysis, the top-performing stock on the New York Stock Exchange during the 1990s. Last year, EMC's annual revenue topped $14 billion. The company employs more than 33,000 people in offices around the world.
In recent years, Egan was a generous supporter of organizations that fostered economic growth and high-tech development in Massachsuetts. He was also a major donor to Republican politicians, including former President George W. Bush, who named Egan the U.S. ambassador to Ireland in 2001. But unlike many self-made billionaires, Egan never embraced a cause in order to burnish his reputation. "To do good just to feel good is no good," he once told the Boston Globe.
Egan is survived by his wife Maureen, and five children.