Former Intel CEO Paul Otellini, Beloved By Partners, Has Passed Away

Former Intel CEO Paul Otellini, a passionate channel advocate who was beloved by Intel partners and employees, has passed away.

The affable and soft-spoken Otellini, who was the first non-engineer to take the helm of the chip giant, passed in his sleep Monday Oct. 2, according to an Intel statement. He was 66.

The son of a butcher, whose grandparents had emigrated from Italy, Otellini literally spent his entire career at Intel starting as an analyst in the finance department and then working his way up through the ranks, even doing a stint as chief of staff for legendary Intel co-founder and CEO Andy Grove.

Otellini, a former altar boy, attended San Francisco's St. Ignatius College Prep, graduated from the University of San Francisco and received an MBA from the University of California in Berkeley in 1972. To drive home the importance of getting an education, Otellini's father insisted he work in the purchasing department of a slaughterhouse.

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Otellini, who became the company's fifth CEO in 2005 and regularly appeared on the CRN Top 25 list of the most influential executives, drove higher sales growth during his eight-year tenure than the company achieved in its previous 45 years. In the last full year before he took over as CEO, Intel had $34 billion in sales. When Otellini retired in 2013, Intel had grown to $53 billion.

"We are deeply saddened by Paul's passing," said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, who took the helm after Otellini retired in 2013. "He was the relentless voice of the customer in a sea of engineers, and he taught us that we only win when we put the customer first."

Under Otellini’s leadership, Intel dramatically stepped up its investment int the channel, launching in 2011 a new partner program – the now iconic Intel Technology Provider Program – that unified resellers and system builders uncer a single program.

The program helped the partners better tap into industry trends through integrating Intel’s embedded and compute technologies as well as its enterprise and consumer technologies.

Otellini led Intel to the top of the server market during a period of explosive data center growth. Partners say it was Otellini's experience as executive vice president and general manager of the sales and marketing group at Intel that accounted for his channel savvy and business acumen.

When he first took over as CEO, Otellini made it a top priority to correct Intel's slipping production schedules and tap into missed opportunities. At the time, Intel faced emerging competition from AMD. Within his first months as CEO, Otellini reorganized the executive ranks to put the focus on lucrative markets, as opposed to products.

The former CEO is also known for signing on the Apple PC business as a customer and building up business partnerships and making strategic acquisitions around critical markets like security, software and mobility – including the company's blockbuster acquisitions of security high flyer McAfee in 2010 and software maker Wind River systems in 2009.

But beyond his role at Intel, Otellini will also be remembered as a mentor and philanthropist – since his retirement, the former executive worked to mentor young people and became involved with an array of charities, including the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco General Hospital Foundation.

"Paul's business acumen, optimism and dedication fueled our growth throughout his tenure as CEO," Intel Chairman Andy Bryant said in a statement. "His tireless drive, discipline and humility were cornerstones of his leadership and live on in our company values to this day."