Robert Galvin
Motorola; Bob Galvin

Longtime Motorola CEO Robert W. Galvin Passes Away At Age 89

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A death of another true innovator that will inevitably result in less outpouring of emotions than the unfortunate loss of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, but one that deserves to be highlighted on these pages all the same.

Robert William Galvin, the longtime chief executive officer of Motorola, passed away peacefully during the night of October 11, 2011 in Chicago.

Galvin lived to become 89 years old.

‘Bob’ Galvin took over at the helm of Motorola from his father, the company’s founder Paul V. Galvin, in 1959 and stayed on as CEO for a remarkable 29 years, remaining chairman of the board for an additional four years.

Galvin transformed Motorola, which was initially called Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, into a global technology powerhouse with close to $11B in sales in 1990 (the year he stepped down as chairman).

Under his guidance, Motorola became a global leader in semiconductor, paging, two-way radio, space and military communication, and automotive embedded control technologies.

But of course, Motorola also famously pioneered cellular phones.

From the press release announcing his death:

Under Galvin, Motorola led the creation of the global cellular telephone industry. It installed the first prototype cell phone demonstration system in Washington DC in 1971; unveiled the first portable cell phone prototype, the DynaTAC, in 1973; enabled the first commercial cell phone call, which was made on the DynaTAC by Ameritech, in Chicago in 1983; and introduced MicroTAC, the industry’s first compact cell phone, in 1989.

Finally, in 1996, with Galvin serving on Motorola’s board, the company manufactured the first pocket-sized ‘flip phone’, the StarTAC. These innovations paved the way to a cell phone market that now includes some 3.8 billion subscribers worldwide.

Throughout his career, Galvin made crucial investments in cellular R&D and advocated tirelessly for competitive telecom regulation across the globe, never wavering in his belief that cellular technology would revolutionize the way people communicated.

“At times we must engage an act of faith,” he once said, “that key things are doable that are not provable.”

The press release, which was issued by the Galvin family, also notes the man’s disappointment in the ousting of his son, Christopher Galvin, who was forced to resign as CEO in late 2003:

Galvin’s long-term vision was for Motorola to continue to advance a highly diversified technology platform to inform and enable the creation of new global technology industries while remaining true to the timeless principles that his father, Paul Galvin, imbued in the company as its founder. By doing both, he believed Motorola could eventually grow global sales by another factor of 10.

He was, therefore, deeply disappointed when Motorola’s board chose to deviate from that path in late 2003 and force out his son Christopher, the third generation Galvin CEO, just as Motorola was completing the most significant turnaround in its history.

Today, Motorola is two companies: Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility. The latter, as I’m sure you know, is currently in the process of being acquired by Google for $12.5 billion.

You can read more about Bob Galvin’s many achievements in life here and here.