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Paul Otellini, Intel’s former CEO, dies at 66

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Otellini steered Intel through an incredibly successful period

2012 Consumer Electronics Show Showcases Latest Technology Innovations Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Paul Otellini, who served as Intel’s chief executive from 2005 until his mid-2013 retirement, has died at the age of 66. He passed away in his sleep on Monday, the company said today. In all, Otellini spent over 40 years as an Intel employee.

Otellini was Intel’s fifth CEO — succeeded by current chief Brian Krzanich — and is credited for “transforming operations and cost structure for long-term growth; assuming a leadership position in the server market segment; and maintaining profitability during the global recession.” Otellini was a San Francisco native and was Intel’s first CEO that didn’t have formal engineering training on his résumé. “Intel generated more revenue during his eight-year tenure as CEO than it did during the company’s previous 45 years,” Intel said in its press release.

During Otellini’s time atop the company, Intel’s revenues rose to $53 billion at the end of 2011 from the $34 billion in sales recorded before he started. He helped Intel maintain its strong lead as the de facto Windows PC chip maker and delivered steady profits. Apple announced a changeover to Intel processors for the Mac lineup in 2005, and Otellini joined Steve Jobs on stage at WWDC to make the announcement.

But Otellini’s misfires included an early push for underpowered ultrabooks and a failure to extend Intel’s dominance of personal computers and servers to the smartphone industry. Neither the iPhone nor most Android smartphones include Intel processors.

"We ended up not winning it or passing on it, depending on how you want to view it,” he said of the iPhone in a 2013 interview with The Atlantic. “And the world would have been a lot different if we'd done it.” Intel’s failure to seize the mobile era was one of Otellini’s biggest professional regrets. "The lesson I took away from that was, while we like to speak with data around here, so many times in my career I've ended up making decisions with my gut, and I should have followed my gut," he said. "My gut told me to say yes."

But even with that factored in, Otellini managed to steer Intel through an incredibly successful run that cemented the company’s standing — likely far beyond what his early predecessors might have envisioned.