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Qualcomm's chairman will step down

March 04, 2009|Bloomberg News

Mobile-phone chip maker Qualcomm Inc. said Tuesday that Irwin Jacobs would step down as chairman, ceding the role to his son, Chief Executive Paul E. Jacobs.

The senior Jacobs will continue as a director at the San Diego company. Jacobs ran the company as CEO from its founding in 1985 until 2005, when he was succeeded by his son.

Jacobs, 75, started the company in an office above a strip-mall pizza parlor, with the goal of using a military wireless technology called code division multiple access in mobile phones.

Qualcomm made inroads in the industry during the transition from analog to digital in the 1990s. U.S. carriers such as Sprint Corp. adopted CDMA, and it caught on in South Korea and Japan.

"He put the mechanism in place for Qualcomm to become the No. 1 chip company in the cellular industry," said Will Strauss, an analyst at Forward Concepts Co. in Tempe, Ariz. "The guy is a legend in the industry."

Qualcomm, short for "quality communications," became the top maker of phone chips last year, passing Texas Instruments Inc. The company has benefited from surging sales of third-generation, or 3G, phones, which provide high-speed Internet access. CDMA is the basis for that technology.

Jacobs didn't expect the company to grow so big. "I told my wife, if all goes well, we'll grow to 100 people. I missed."

In the most recent fiscal year, Qualcomm's sales climbed 26% to $11.1 billion. The company's revenue has grown an average of 24% annually over the last five years.

Qualcomm now has a market value of almost $56 billion.

Qualcomm shares rose 66 cents, or 2%, to $33.45.

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