Rockwell International - Apex and Break-up

Apex and Break-up

With the death of company founder and first CEO Willard Rockwell in 1978, and the stepping down of his son Willard Rockwell, Jr. in 1979 as the second CEO, Bob Anderson became CEO and led the company through the 1980s when it became the largest U.S. defense contractor and largest NASA contractor. Rockwell also acquired the privately held Allen-Bradley Company for $1.6 billion in February 1985 — $1 billion of which was cash to the owners of Allen Bradley — and became a producer of railroad electronics.

During the 1980s, Anderson, his CFO Bob dePalma and the Rockwell management team built the company to #27 on the Fortune 500 list. It boasted sales of $12 billion and assets of over $8 billion. Its workforce of over 100,000 was organized into nine major divisions — Space, Aircraft, Defense Electronics, Commercial Electronics, Light Duty Automotive Components, Heavy Duty Automotive Components, Printing Presses, Valves and Meters, and Industrial Automation. Rockwell International was a major employer in Southern California, Ohio, Georgia, Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and western Pennsylvania.

Anderson stepped down as CEO in February 1988, leaving the company to president Donald R. Beall. The completion of the Space Shuttle program and cancellation of the B-1 bomber had led to a decline in revenues, and Beall sought to diversify the company away from government contracts. The end of the Cold War and deteriorating economic conditions, however, prompted accelerated divestitures and sweeping management reforms. From 1988 to 2001 the company moved its headquarters four times: from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to El Segundo, California to Seal Beach, California to Costa Mesa, California to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

At the end of the 1980s, the company sold its valve and meter division, formerly Rockwell Manufacturing, to British Tyre & Rubber. It also sold its printing press division to an internal management team. Following the "peace dividend" after the fall of the Soviet bloc, the company sold its defense and aerospace business, including what was once North American Aviation and Rocketdyne, to Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in December 1996. In the 1990s, the company spun off its semiconductor products as Conexant Technologies (CNXT), which is publicly traded and based in Newport Beach, California. Rockwell International also spun off its automotive division as a publicly traded company, Meritor Automotive, based in Troy, Michigan, which then merged with Arvin Industries to form Arvin Meritor. That company is now known as Meritor, Inc.

In 2001, what remained of Rockwell International was split into two companies, Rockwell Automation and Rockwell Collins — both publicly traded companies — ending the run of what had once been a massive and diverse conglomerate.

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