John R. Opel

John Roberts Opel (January 5, 1925 in Kansas City, Missouri – November 3, 2011 in Fort Myers, Florida) was a U.S. computer businessman. He served as the president of IBM between 1974 and 1985. He then served as the CEO of IBM from 1981 to 1985. Finally he was the chairman of IBM between 1983 and 1986. A discussion he had with Mary Maxwell Gates while they were both serving on the board of United Way resulted in an IBM contract being placed with her son Bill's company Microsoft to create an operating system for IBM's first personal computer.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Opel grew up in Jefferson City, Mo. He majored in English at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. He then fought in the Philippines and Okinawa in World War II and earned a MBA degree from the University of Chicago in 1949.

Upon graduation, Opel had two job offers, one to rewrite economics textbooks, and the other to take over his father’s hardware business. While taking a fishing trip with his father and a family friend who worked for IBM, he was offered a third a job as a salesman in central Missouri, and accepted.

In 1959 Mr. Opel became executive assistant to IBM CEO Thomas J. Watson Jr., after which he rose rapidly, taking positions in manufacturing and public relations and other departments, and managed the introduction of the IBM System 360 mainframe computer in 1964.

Opel died at his Fort Myers, Florida home in 2011. He was 86.

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