Jerome York, 71

Jerome York, executive with Apple, Chrysler and IBM, dies at 71

Jerome York advised Steve Jobs during Apple's renaissance as a consumer-electronics giant.
Jerome York advised Steve Jobs during Apple's renaissance as a consumer-electronics giant. (Paul Sancya/associated Press)
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By bloomberg news
Friday, March 19, 2010

Jerome York, 71, a director at Apple, a former chief financial officer at Chrysler and IBM, and an adviser to investor Kirk Kerkorian, died March 18 at a hospital in Pontiac, Mich. He had a brain aneurysm, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Mr. York provided counsel to Steve Jobs during Apple's renaissance as a consumer-electronics giant and helped lead turnarounds at Chrysler and IBM. As an adviser to billionaire Kerkorian, he served as a frontman in takeover battles and fought for management changes.

Mr. York was born June 22, 1938, in Memphis and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He received an MBA from the University of Michigan and a master's degree from MIT. He served in Chrysler's finance department in the early 1980s under then-chief executive Lee Iacocca during the automaker's brush with bankruptcy and recovery.

Precluded from a military career because of a gymnastics-related back injury, Mr. York rose in Chrysler's ranks to become executive vice president of finance. In 1993, Louis Gerstner, then IBM's chief executive, recruited him to be senior vice president and chief financial officer as part of the computer company's turnaround. He gained a reputation as a relentless cost-cutter.

Mr. York left IBM to join Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. months after the private investment company began an unsuccessful attempt to take over Chrysler in 1995. In 2005, Mr. York advised Kerkorian as Tracinda began buying shares of General Motors. Tracinda eventually amassed 9.9 percent of GM, whose management in early 2006 invited Mr. York to join the board.

Kerkorian and Mr. York aimed to create an alliance between GM and the one that already existed between Nissan Motor and Renault, headed by Carlos Ghosn. Rick Wagoner, then GM's chief executive, rejected the idea as expensive and impractical. In fall 2006, disappointed by Wagoner's rejection, Mr. York resigned from GM's board. A few months later, Tracinda sold its GM stake.

Mr. York was nominated as a director at Apple in 1997 by Jobs, who had just returned to the company as chief executive after a 12-year hiatus. During Mr. York's tenure on Apple's board, the company transformed from being a computer-industry also-ran into a dominant maker of portable devices. The company's sales soared to more than $40 billion a year, fueled by the iMac, iPod and iPhone.

Mr. York also served on the board of Dana Holding, an auto-parts supplier in Toledo. "He was an enormous contributor, based on his vast experience," Chairman John Devine said. "There wasn't anything that he hadn't seen before several times."

Survivors include his wife, Eileen.

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