Lew Platt, who spent 33 years at Hewlett-Packard including seven at the helm, died Thursday night in California, according to a statements issued by The Boeing, where he served as a non-executive chairman after leaving HP. He was 64.
The cause of his death was not provided.
"Lew cared deeply for HP and its people, and his loss is being felt widely across our company," HP President and chief executive officer (CEO) Mark Hurd said in a statement. "He was a natural leader who was enormously well liked and made an enduring impression on those he encountered. The way he treated people and how he ran the company set an exceptionally high standard of personal decency."
His death was also being felt at Boeing.
"I am deeply saddened by Lew's untimely death," Boeing chairman, president and CEO Jim McNerney said in a statement. "Lew shepherded Boeing with strength, grace, dignity and integrity through a period when the company most needed his steady hand. He was a compassionate man who put his own retirement and personal plans on the back burner to ensure that Boeing never missed a beat through its recent recovery."
Platt served in his role at the aerospace company as it recovered from a procurement scandal.
He was at HP from 1966 to 1999, starting as an entry-level engineer in the medical products group and rising to become president and CEO, taking over from David Packard as chairman in 1993. A statement issued by HP Friday described Platt as "admired for his personal energy, openness and humor."
When Platt retired from HP, he went to work as chief executive of the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates from 2000 to mid-2001.
Platt was the last leader of HP before the stormy tenure of CEO Carly Fiorina, who was fired earlier this year. Fiorina led HP's controversial acquisition of Compaq and worked to revamp the company, which is still undergoing major changes under Hurd.
"In some sense, he was probably the last of the 'HP Way' executives," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with Insight 64, in Saratoga, California. "The management style at HP was one of managers being very involved technically as well as administratively. ... Many people still look back and say, 'Gee, what happened to the HP Way?'"
His association with HP's traditions may have helped precipitate the dramatic change in leadership that brought in Fiorina in 1999, Brookwood said.
"The company was following in the direction it had followed for many, many years, and the board of directors felt it needed a bigger change in its strategy than Platt was prepared to undertake," Brookwood said. "He ... could be a good steward of the past but not necessarily a change agent for the future."
Platt was born April 11, 1941, in Johnson City, New York. He received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, and a master's degree in business administration from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.
Platt and his wife, Joan Redmund Platt, had four children and one grandchild.
A current biography of Platt is available at the Boeing Web site: http://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/aboutus/execprofiles/platt.html
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