Former Intel CEO Andy Grove Dies at 79

Intel's first employee, Grove was instrumental in driving the company to become the world's largest chip maker and a key Silicon Valley player.

Intel Grove

In 1968, Intel founders Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce hired their first employee, a 32-year-old Hungarian immigrant who a decade earlier had escaped a homeland ravaged by the effects of World War II and the ensuing Communist rule to find a place for himself in the United States.

The hiring of Andy Grove would help transform the brand-new semiconductor company into one of the cornerstones of Silicon Valley's evolution into the center of the technology world. The perseverance and determination that enabled him to survive Nazi Germany's occupation of Hungary and the country's subsequent existence behind the Iron Curtain would drive Intel to become a key player in the PC revolution, making the component inside the system as important as the system itself.

He would also have an outsized influence on others who would rise to the top of the high-tech industry, guiding along the way the likes of Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell. In 1997, he was Time magazine's Man of the Year.

Grove died March 21, at the age of 79, leaving behind a legacy that few could match, even in an industry that likes to talk about its legacies. He was named Intel's president in 1979, became its CEO in 1987 and was the chip maker's chairman until 2004. Intel is now the world's largest semiconductor company, its reach extending beyond PCs into everything from the data center to the Internet of things. It's a bellwether for the industry, a company that last year made $11.4 billion on revenue of $55.4 billion.

"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."

Other tech leaders commented on Grove's death.

"I'm sad to hear that Andy Grove has died," former Microsoft CEO Gates wrote in a tweet. "I loved working with him. He was one of the great business leaders of the 20th century."

"Remembering Andy Grove, one of the greatest ever," Dell CEO Michael Dell wrote. "Teacher, Friend, Leader. Told it like it was and made it happen."

Internet pioneer and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote that Gove was "the best company-builder Silicon Valley has ever seen, and likely will ever see."

It's a wonder that Grove was able to reach such heights of achievement. He was born Andras Grof in September 1936 in Budapest, and his country was quickly swallowed up in the tumultuous times that marked the middle of the 20th century. He was an 8-year-old boy who, during the Nazi occupation of Hungary, was forced to hide with other families as the Germans looked to empty Budapest of Jews. After the war, the family tried to survive under Soviet occupation. In 1956, at age 20, Grove escaped by crossing the border into Austria, and then came to the United States to stay with relatives in New York City.

He went to the West Coast, where he earned a Ph.D in chemical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, and then joined Fairchild Semiconductor. In 1968, he joined Moore and Noyce at the new company, Intel.

Over the next three-plus decades, Grove was a driving force behind the rise of Intel as the world's top chip maker and a foundational company of the Silicon Valley tech industry.

"Andy approached corporate strategy and leadership in ways that continue to influence prominent thinkers and companies around the world," Intel Chairman Andy Bryant said in a statement. "He combined the analytic approach of a scientist with an ability to engage others in honest and deep conversation, which sustained Intel's success over a period that saw the rise of the personal computer, the Internet and Silicon Valley."