Remembering a legendary leader

Dennis J. Picard helped transform Raytheon into a global giant

Former Raytheon Chairman and CEO Dennis J. Picard (Image credit: Northeastern University)

Former Raytheon Chairman and CEO Dennis J. Picard, who led the company through a historic era of industry consolidation and helped it to emerge as a global leader in defense technology, has died. He was 87.

Picard engineered Raytheon's mid-1990s acquisition of E-Systems and the defense units of Chrysler, Texas Instruments and Hughes. These acquisitions, which took place during a period of unprecedented industry consolidation triggered by post-Cold War budget cuts, doubled the size of Raytheon, allowing it to become one of the world’s largest defense contractors. 

“He was a talented engineer and legendary executive whose accomplishments continue to directly benefit Raytheon to this day,” said Raytheon Chairman and CEO Tom Kennedy. “It was his bold vision and business savvy that enabled Raytheon to emerge from an uncertain period of post-Cold War industry consolidation as a global defense technology leader.”

An engineer by training, Picard was tapped to lead Raytheon’s Missile Systems Division in 1983, and specifically, to help complete the Patriot defense system. He helped turn around the program, which was then designed to defend against aircraft, and championed its development as an anti-missile system.

Picard succeeded long-time Raytheon CEO Tom Phillips in March 1991, shortly after Patriot rose to fame during the Gulf War. As spending on national defense spending dropped in the early ’90s, and defense companies began consolidating, Picard decided Raytheon would be a buyer, not a seller. Known as a tough businessman and fierce negotiator, Picard led the acquisition of both the Hughes and Texas Instruments defense units for $12.5 billion within 10 days of each other in January 1997.

“The strategic combination of Raytheon, TI Defense and Hughes Defense enables us to address those [industry] changes head-on and to grow in the best segment of the defense business – defense electronics,” Picard told employees at the time. “We are truly creating a defense electronics powerhouse.”

The acquisitions added a number of high-profile franchises to Raytheon’s portfolio that remain fielded two decades later, including the Tomahawk, AMRAAM, Evolved Sea-Sparrow and AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles, the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System, the Joint Stand-off Weapon, the Javelin anti-tank missile and FLIR. Under Picard, Raytheon diversified non-core business units, such as the Amana consumer appliance line and DC Heath publishing company, but strategically added a dozen companies to help develop commercial uses for the company’s technology. It was during his tenure that Raytheon became the world’s largest provider of air traffic control systems.  

By the time Picard retired as CEO in December 1998, Raytheon’s sales had more than doubled, from $9.3 billion in 1991 to $19.5 billion in 1998.

A 1998 Wall Street Journal article said that Picard had “overseen [Raytheon’s] transformation from a midsize conglomerate into a $20 billion-a-year defense colossus.”

Picard’s Raytheon career almost never happened. In 1955, Picard, then a Korean War veteran with a broadcasting engineer degree from the RCA Institute, got lost while driving to an interview at GTE’s Waltham plant. A police officer directed him to a Raytheon hiring center instead, where he was hired that day as an engineer’s assistant.

The son of a Rhode Island mill worker, Picard worked at Raytheon during the day and went to Northeastern University’s engineering school at night, graduating cum laude in 1962 with degrees in electrical engineering and management.

Picard was known for working long hours with exacting attention to detail. He rose through the Raytheon ranks to become a company vice president in 1976 and deputy general manager of Raytheon’s Equipment Division in 1982. He was elected to the Raytheon board in January 1989 and became company president that August. He retired as CEO in December 1998 and as board chairman in July 1999. 

He is a past director of State Street Boston Corporation, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, past president and an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

He was a registered professional engineer and held honorary doctorates from  Northeastern University, Merrimack College and Bentley College. Mr. Picard was a trustee of Northeastern University and a trustee emeritus of Bentley College; and a past member of the Business Council. He is a former member of the Defense Policy Advisory Committee on Trade (DPACT) and the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC).


Published On: 10/23/2019
Last Updated: 10/23/2019