Frank Cary, who led IBM for more than a decade, died Sunday. He was 85 years old.
The news was first disclosed in a public filing Wednesday by Lexmark, a company spun off from IBM in 1991. Cary had been on the board of Lexington, Ky.-based printer company.
He led the IBM computing giant from 1973 through 1981 as CEO and continued as chairman till 1983, according to IBM's Web site. He retired at 60, per IBM's policy.
Dave Boucher, a 30-year IBM veteran and former vice president, said the former CEO was the driving force behind IBM's entry into the personal computer business.
"Cary was the guy who made the decision for IBM to build its own personal computer rather than go out and take someone else's product into the market," said Boucher.
Cary, in fact, put together a task force that was charged with formulating IBM's personal computer strategy, agreed long-time IBM watcher and analyst Amy Wohl, president of Wohl Associates, Narberth, Penn.
In 1981, IBM announced its first PC, signaling a shift from its "big iron"-centric roots.
Frank Dzubeck, another IBM pundit, said Cary didn't get nearly enough credit for helping the company navigate the tricky shoals of litigation and anti-trust issues.
"He protected that company from government interference and its technology from competitors," he noted.
People forget that at one time, as the government pursued anti-trust agendas against both IBM and AT&T, "no one was sure that the company would remain intact," said Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects, Washington, D.C.
Boucher also recalls his own father, who worked at IBM for 33 years, speaking fondly of Cary. "My dad spoke reverently of Cary and what a great guy he was," he said. "Cary always had a huge smile on his face. He was tough, very smart and just a great guy."
Cary also helped found the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), in the early 1970s. Besides his board work for Lexmark, Cary was also chairman fo Celgene, a biotech company from 1986 to 1990, according to an IBM spokesman.
Cary, born in Idaho and brought up in Inglewood, Calif., attended UCLA and got a masters degree in business administration from Stanford. He joined IBM in 1948 as a marketing rep in Los Anglees and was named president of the Data Processing Division in 1964, according to IBM's bio.
After stepping down as chairman, he remained on IBM's board until 1991.
Cary apparently died at home in Darien, Conn. No other details were available.
During his tenure, IBM faced major anti-trust battles with the U.S. Department of Justice and fought off incursions by Japanese companies into its bread-and-butter mainframe turf.
Wohl said Cary was the bridge between the early IBM, as headed by Thomas Watson and his son, and a modern era of corporate management.
Cary was succeeded as CEO, then chairman, by John Opel.
This story was updated Friday morning with additional comment.