Thomas L. Phillips, chairman and CEO of Raytheon during a period of significant growth and company evolution, passed away on January 9, 2019. He was 94 years old.
Tom Phillips first joined Raytheon as an electronics design engineer in Lab 16, the company’s advanced research center. He was just 24 years old, but over the next eight years, he became program manager and led development for both the Sparrow air-to-air missile and the Hawk surface-to-air missile system, the U.S. Army’s predecessor to Raytheon’s renowned Patriot anti-missile defense system.
Raytheon named Phillips a vice president in 1960, executive vice president in 1961 and president in 1964.
Almost immediately after being appointed president, Phillips launched a long-range acquisition and diversification plan. According to Phillips, microwave cooking technology, then almost exclusively used in industry, was one of the tools Raytheon that could help the company diversify.
Phillips already had a plan to use acquisition to fuel growth. To crack the home market, Raytheon bought Amana Refrigeration, which had distribution systems that reached consumers and a reputation for high quality and craftsmanship. Raytheon’s Radarange ovens had been available commercially since 1947, but the countertop model that was first to carry the Amana brand name was the first popular home microwave.
Other significant acquisitions of the era included the then-80-year-old textbook publisher D.C Heath and Company, which brought Raytheon into the educational market; and the Seismograph Service Company, which made geophysical exploration equipment for the oil industry. Those and other acquisitions helped Raytheon to reach the $1 billion mark in annual sales in 1967.
Under Phillips, Raytheon focused on government contracts like the Sparrow missile and Patriot forerunners Hawk and SAM-D through the 1970s, even as it continued to pursue acquisitions that reached consumers. It also built air traffic control systems, phased-array radars and shipboard defense systems.
Phillips became Raytheon’s CEO in 1968 and was elected chairman in 1975.
In 1980, in its largest acquisition ever, Raytheon bought Beech Aircraft, a venerable name in aviation. Phillips had been pursuing the company for ten years, and the deal completed his vision to balance the company’s portfolio between commercial and government business.
Born in Istanbul in 1924, Phillips graduated from Boston Public Latin School in 1942 and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1947 and 1948 respectively. He served on the boards of such companies as Digital Equipment Corporation, John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, State Street Research & Management Company and Knight-Ridder Inc.
Phillips retired in 1991. He remained a member of Raytheon’s board until 2000.more » « less