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EMC co-founder kills himself

Street kid, entrepreneur and ambassador

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Life after EMC

Tucci promptly encountered a near desperate situation. The dot-com crash ravaged revenues and the company lost half a billion dollars in 2001. EMC stock fell to $7.20 in 2001, 90 per cent less than its peak in September 2000. Fortunately, Tucci had come from a difficult turnaround at previous employer Wang Global and was able to steer EMC through the terrible times through cost-cutting and retrenchment.

Tucci started the company on the growth road again with a brilliant series of acquisitions and initiatives. The purchase of VMware stands out as a particularly bold and successful move. EMC was also the first to ship solid state drives (SSDs) in its arrays and is now driving into cloud computing with its VMware server virtualisation, Atmos hardware and software, and relationship with Cisco.

Today EMC is the largest storage company in the world, posting $14.9Bn revenues in 2008. There is no close competitor of comparable size. It is a great testimony to Egan's business talent and to Tucci's turnaround and business growth skills.

Egan engaged in philanthropic activities after leaving the company. He was, for example, a major donor to The Maureen and Richard J. Egan Engineering and Science Research Center at Northeastern University, which opened in 1996. But the next phase of his life was an ambassadorship.

Ambassador

In 2000, before he retired from EMC Egan was a prominent and successful fund-raiser for George W. Bush's presidential campaign. It is worth asking if Egan took his eye off the EMC ball while fund-raising, and so did not position EMC as well as it could have been for the dotcom crash.

Following his election, Bush nominated Egan to be the US ambassador to Ireland in March 2001. There was a lengthy confirmation process, with senator Edward Kennedy querying his lack of diplomatic credentials. Egan had to sell 10 million EMC shares to avoid conflicts of interest, since EMC had a Cork facility and sales offices in Ireland.

Fifteen months into the post, Egan resigned, citing personal reasons. According to reports, he was frustrated with the job: rumours spoke of his business directness butting up against diplomatic protocols and niceties.

He was involved in a tax shelter case in 2006. The Irish Times reported he had invested $62m in a scheme set up by KPMG partners.

Ill health

The devastating blow of stage 4 lung cancer came in May this year. He was not a healthy man, also suffering from diabetes, emphysema, and high blood pressure. Three months later he acted decisively, to end his life.

EMC CEO and president Joe Tucci stated: "The world lost a great man and a great leader today. On behalf of more than 40,000 EMC employees from around the world, we extend our deepest condolences to Mrs. Egan and the entire family."

In an interview with the Boston Globe Egan discussed his personality, described as being brash and no-nonsense: "Maybe I don't have any compassion. Maybe these things I am doing are not altruistic. If you do it for altruistic reasons, it will collapse. To do good just to feel good is no good."

EMC blogger Storagezilla contributed this epitaph: "Dick was an Irish American hard ass with a filthy mouth (and) a great sense of humor. He did a lot for EMC employees. He did a lot for Ireland. And he did a hell of a lot for Cork. There's an Irish pub in heaven Dick."

Richard Egan is survived by wife Maureen and five sons. ®

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