Maxim founder Jack Gifford dead of apparent heart attack

jackgifford-mugJohn Gifford, who founded analog chip maker Maxim Integrated Products and served as its chief executive until his retirement in 2007, passed away Sunday of an apparent heart attack, according to a company press release distributed Monday.

Gifford was born in 1941 and grew up in Los Angeles. After graduating from UCLA in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, he worked for Fairchild Semiconductor, first in sales in L.A. and later in marketing in Silicon Valley.

An industry legend, Gifford was one of the many engineers who left Fairchild to start their own companies in the 1960s. Gifford helped co-found Advanced Micro Devices in 1969 and later became president of Intersil, which he left in 1983. Weeks later he founded Maxim, which became a public company in 1988.

”Jack founded Maxim with the firm belief that analog integrated circuits would prove to be a great growth market. He led our Company with steadfast determination for 24 years, grew it from the ground up to over $2B in sales” said Tunç Doluca, Maxim’s CEO, in a written statement.”His success provided returns for shareholders and income for over 10,000 employees and their families over his long tenure here. He was a strong leader with seemingly limitless energy and enthusiasm. His attention to detail and guiding management principles established the highly pragmatic culture at Maxim.”

Gifford left Maxim in 2007 on the advice of his doctor, citing declining health as he wrestled with federal investigations into the suspicious timing of stock options. He stayed on as a special strategic adviser.

”It’s caused by having more to do than you can do,” Maxim Vice President Charles Rigg told the Mercury News at the time. ”He basically took on two companies: Maxim, and the other was  this backdating issue. It got to be more than he could handle. The things that came out of  that is high blood pressure, a loss of weight, that sort of thing.”

A special committee of Maxim’s board later concluded the company had mishandled stock-option grants to employees and directors from 2000 to as late as 2006, even as stock-option backdating was exploding into national headlines. In connection with its investigation, Gifford agreed to step down as special adviser.

In December 2007, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil charges against Maxim’s former chief executive, Jack Gifford, and former Chief Financial Officer Carl Jasper, accusing them of rigging stock options for employees. Without admitting or denying the allegations, Gifford agreed to pay nearly $800,000 in a settlement.


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  • steven shapiro

    I was a friend of Jack Gifford’s. Your obituary unfortunately spends way too much time regurgitating the fact that Jack, along with any number of other tech executives including Steve Jobs, got caught up in an option pricing scandal that became something of a witch hunt. Jack never personally profited from option backdating and the related issues were in fact all cleared up shortly before his untimely passing. In all of my life I can honestly say that I have rarely met an individual of higher moral character.

    Much more significant is the fact that Jack was indeed a visionary, an important contributor among the generation of engineers that founded silicon valley and indeed helped to create the electronic world that we now take for granted. Everyone who knew Jack would also point to his sharp wit, no-nonsense style, and competitive spirit. Jack’s contributions to silicon valley were legendary, and he will be missed.

  • claranne long

    I was only privileged to know Jack for a short time – he was a patron of baseball programs in the bay area. He also coached a summer team – the Maxim Yankees – and was a supportive and gracious man. You should focus on the good when a special man passes. There are families involved. One mention of the stock issue was enough.

  • Matt Fitts

    I was fortunate to work for Maxim for many years. And while many people didn’t understand or appreciate Jack’s philosophies, he always did what he thought was best for his company and shareholders [always]. Many people held a lot of contempt for his style and process, but most did not see his compassionate and caring side. He always took great care for his employees and it was a personal battle he fought to provide for those families. And he always took time for charitable organizations.

    Personally, he was very aggressive with me, but always took the time to answer my questions and to educate me anytime I didn’t understand his decision. I learned a lot from him, as did many who worked at Maxim.

    To date, I have yet to meet anyone who was as strong in strategic planning, financial management, and motivating people. The world has lost a very inspirational and talented man, who will be missed greatly.

    My condolences to his family and close friends.

  • Hugh G. Willett

    I interviewed Jack Gifford many times during my years as a Silicon Valley reporter. He was a hard guy to get to know, but if he said something was going to happen… it usually happened, whether it was a new product introduction, a technology milestone or a quarterly sales goal.

    Gifford was not the type to let a slight, perceived or real, to go unanswered. If he thought a story was inaccurate he would let you know about it. He was famous, or maybe infamous, among the Silicon Valley reporters for his lawsuit against Don Hoeffler at MicroElectronic News.

  • Rose Hodges Lutes

    I was a classmate of Jack’s at Phineas Banning School in Wilmington, CA. This is a very sad time for all of us who knew him. We can all say we are proud to have known him. My deepest sympathy to his family.

  • My husband played with Jack at UCLA. I was blessed enough to be able to become loving friends of he and Rhodine. All of your criticisms would be better directed at any ONE of our criminally insane politicians. As for Jack, he was a man among men, smart, clever, hard working – more than most people these days – and in the end, one of the most philanthropic and caring men I have ever been blessed to know. Many of my husband’s former players went on to work for Jack and acknowledged that Jack expected a lot of his people, but gave SO much back. He grew up poor and knew what it was like. He also worked hard and expected no less. Now, I find that something to be respected. God bless you, Jack!

  • Tracy Jones

    Steven, Claranne, Matt,

    Thank you.

  • Terry

    I followed the IC crowd from 80 fwd and was always driven mad by overcompensated CEOs of public companies- Privately they cannot do much but once working with others money they really know how to make big money 1st for themselves- and generally lastly for the ‘clowns doing the work.’ I went to some of the AMD Cypress & Mxim parties over the years. 20 yrs of work wont even be worth a damn anymore since they all have been bled dry by top tier Mgmt. Too much fluff & personal stuff. David & Bill were much more conservative at HP and BOUGHT assets. Paid their vendors, cared, etc. Sure start a biz overseas- just don’t do it at the expense of the first 1000 employees who got you there

  • Roy d Pavloff

    I was in the original 18 employees that started Maxin, in their 1st weeek of conception. their were 2 people hired from one of intersils competitors, Teledyne I was one of them in a key position the other
    was the vice president of engineering.
    I was not impressed with jack gifford, I had worked in 4 startups
    previously. I worked in chip design for lat 38 years. including
    companies like Intel,AMD,Digital,IBM,National,Fairchild, and a ton of startups. I have worked with alot of brilliant men
    that have founded a host of compamies like Alteria. the point being that Jack was a salesman not an engineer, and used his experiance to manipulate details to suit his needs like most sales people do. It is my opinion that Jack wanted the win no matter what the cost to other people’s lives. I was among a 4 man crew that put togather 20 produts
    the first 12 most of these products were reverse engineered in market specific areas that would provide income as fast as possible for the company. fine tuning then started and employees that were no longer
    needed for that purpose were given salary cuts to get them to leave
    and basically return stock that was not earned to the company. duel
    purpose for this was to hurt competitors that the employee came from
    and save money. no I have little respect for jack gifford or mr fulligar
    the vice president of engineering at the time.
    thanks for taking the time to read this

  • boom boom mancini

    Steven, you are incorrect in saying that Jack did not benefit by the options back dating. He was able unfairly attract talent by doing this.

    Just because “all the other CEOs are doing it” doesn’t make it right. That’s exactly why German citizens didn’t stand up to the Nazis. This is not a good justification.

    I am sorry your friend passed, but you have to understand that he may not be perfect about everything.

    -Boom Boom Mancini

  • Jim Ranes

    I only worked for him for a few months when Maxim bought the remains of Dallas Semiconductor in 2001.

    I thought he was a jerk from the getgo and knew he was lying when he came to Addison and gave the good ol’ “it’s great to be in Dallas and we love what Dallas Semiconductor is doing” speech.

    Sorry he got caught up in the back dating thingy but he knew it was wrong and violated his own “Maxim Principles” by authorizing the backdating to begin with.

    Did the stress of all this lead to his early death? Probably.

    Sympathy to those who loved him.