Harold S. Geneen, 87, the hard-driving business tycoon with the photographic memory, steel-trap mind and confrontational style who built International Telephone and Telegraph into perhaps the world's biggest conglomerate, died Friday in a New York hospital after suffering a massive heart attack.
Trained at night school as an accountant, Mr. Geneen was said to have demonstrated zeal for detail and a zest for management, as he heaped purchase upon acquisition to create a business empire that extended its operations into almost every field of human endeavor.
For briefer or longer periods, Mr. Geneen's ITT Corp., through its subsidiaries and holdings, baked Wonder Bread, published books, built houses, ran hotels, rented cars, sold insurance and manufactured radar and other electronic equipment. It also, as its name implied, operated telecommunications networks all over the world.
While under the capacious ITT umbrella, these divergent, seemingly unrelated enterprises -- 250 of them in 60 countries during the 1970s -- were all alike, in the accounts of business observers, in coming under the close scrutiny of the man at the top.
"Management must manage," was one of his watchwords, as he imposed on his subordinates a system of strict accountability that would provide him with another of his demands: "No surprises."
"Some people accuse me of being a workaholic," he once said. "I plead guilty."
Known for his ability to remain unruffled in circumstances of extreme interpersonal conflict, Mr. Geneen was said to run his far-flung empire through monthly top level meetings -- and many other meetings as well -- frequently morning to midnight sessions marked by hot tempers and raised voices.
His management philosophy and style became the subject of business school theses; his propensity for boardroom confrontation had few equals, professors said. Long an icon in the business world, Mr. Geneen became better known to the general public when the name of his company surfaced during investigation of alleged Nixon administration influence peddling at the time of the Watergate affair.
Syndicated columnist Jack Anderson published a memo in February 1972 written by an ITT Washington lobbyist, linking a company pledge of $400,000 for the Republican National Convention to ITT dealings with the Justice Department in an antitrust matter.
It was also alleged that ITT had offered money to the CIA to undermine the left-oriented government of Salvador Allende in Chile. It was believed at the time that Allende intended to nationalize ITT's Chilean telephone company.
Although business observers considered the company's image marred by the controversies, Mr. Geneen appeared to ride them out. He stepped down in 1977 after 18 years as ITT president and chief executive. He remained chairman for two additional years and spent four more on the board of directors before retiring.
Mr. Geneen, whose name is pronounced with a soft "G", was born in Bournemouth, England, Jan. 22, 1910. His father was a Russian-born concert manager; his mother was English born. As a 1-year-old he came to the United States with his parents.
They separated and much of his youth was spent at boarding schools and summer camps. He graduated from Suffield Academy in Connecticut at 16 and went to work as a page at the New York Stock Exchange, studying accounting at New York University after-hours.
After spending eight years at the accounting form of Lybrand and Ross Bros. & Montgomery, he entered the corporate world, on the accounting side, forking for the American Can Co., the Bell and Howell Co. and Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp.
In his attention to corporate ledgers, an early colleague compared him to "a bloodhound on the trail of a wasted dollar."
In 1956, he became executive vice president of the Raytheon Co., with orders from its boss to "make some money." He slashed costs and also developed his system of setting up multiple divisions, each with considerable autonomy, but all under close watch from the top.
Earnings quadrupled, but Mr. Geneen felt that he was not yet master of his own ship. "Every so often," he said, "without warning, somebody else would try to put their hand on the wheel." In 1959, he quit to head ITT.
So began the years of taking home the overstuffed briefcase, of becoming an American business legend for dining on simple fare, (hamburger, it was said) but going first class to his international business meetings (chartering a PanAm jet airliner).
Flinty-eyed and wrathful to errant subordinates, according to some accounts, Mr. Geneen took what was said to be a loosely linked holding company and built it into one of the symbols of business enterprise, the prototypical conglomerate.
"Running a conglomerate requires working harder than most people want to work and taking more risks than most people want to take," he wrote in a recently published book "The Synergy Myth."
In the years after he left ITT, his instinct for making money and passion for work led him to other enterprises. But ITT's new management began cutting the company's size, divesting its subsidiaries. To some students of American business, it seemed that the day of the mammoth conglomerate was waning.
In a review of "The Synergy Myth" in the London Financial Times, Tony Jackson asked rhetorically, "Why . . . did his empire disintegrate?" Jackson's answer, based on Mr. Geneen's book, "because he was not there."
His first marriage ended in divorce in 1946. Three years later he married June Hjelm who was his secretary at Bell and Howell. NORMAN S. ALTMAN Washington Lawyer
Norman S. Altman, 85, a former government lawyer and an authority on housing law who had been affiliated with the Washington law firm of Krooth & Altman since he helped found it in 1947, died of cancer Nov. 21 at George Washington University Hospital. He lived in Washington.
His firm specializes in housing, urban development and health care issues. Over the years, its clients have included the Agency for International Development, for whom Mr. Altman did work in Latin America to develop financing plans for proposed cooperative housing projects.
In addition to his legal practice, he also had done volunteer work as an incorporator and a trustee of the Woodward Foundation, which awards scholarships. He also had been active in PTA and other community groups. He was a life member of the National Housing Conference and also belonged to the Washington Hebrew Congregation, the National Press Club, the National Lawyers Club, the Federal Bar Association and the Army Navy Country Club.
Mr. Altman, who was born in New York, served with the Navy in the Pacific during World War II and received the Bronze Star. He was a 1933 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Cornell University and a 1936 graduate of Harvard University law school, where he served on the board of editors of the law review.
He came to Washington in 1936 and joined the legal staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He later served as a lawyer with the Labor and Justice departments before resigning from the government to start his own law firm.
Survivors include his wife, Sophie B., of Washington; a son, Robert A., of Potomac; three daughters, Nancy J. Altman of Bethesda and Janet Altman Spragens and Susan R. Altman, both of Washington; a brother, Victor A., of Washington; and six grandchildren. RICHARD DENNIS HORIGAN Sr. Metro Dispatcher
Richard Dennis Horigan Sr., 78, a retired Metro dispatcher who began his career as a bus driver for the old Capital Transit, died Oct. 24 at Laurel Regional Hospital. He had Alzheimer's disease. He lived in College Park.
Mr. Horigan, a native of Washington, attended Central High School, then served in the Army Signal Corps. During World War II, he was stationed in Europe and the Pacific Islands.
Shortly after his return to Washington, he began working as a bus driver for Capital Transit, which later became D.C. Transit. He was a Metro train operator and then a dispatcher at the New Carrollton station until his retirement in 1981.
Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Fern C. Horigan of College Park; three children, Mary Louise Wojahn of Arnold, Richard D. Horigan Jr. of Fairfield, Pa., and Troy William Horigan of Bowie; and four grandchildren. KELSEY COOKE MEYERSBURG Democratic Party Activist
Kelsey Cooke Meyersburg, 48, a former general manager of an office products business who in recent years became active in the Montgomery County Democratic Party, died of complications of kidney failure Nov. 18 at Holy Cross Hospital. She had diabetes.
Mrs. Meyersburg, who was known professionally as Ms. Cooke, served as a member of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee from 1995 until her death. As a member of the Committee, she served terms as a liaison to a local district in Montgomery County and to the state Democratic Central Committee.
In 1994, Mrs. Meyersburg and her husband, Munro, were named Montgomery County Democrats of the Year, in recognition of their efforts and leadership roles in voter registration drives, election campaigns and organizing party functions.
Mrs. Meyersburg, a Washington native, lived in Silver Spring. She was a graduate of Sacred Heart High School and the University of Maryland, and was attending Catholic University for a master's degree in anthropology. She was general manager of Midtown Office Products in Silver Spring for about 20 years until the business closed in 1994.
In addition to her husband, of Silver Spring; survivors include her parents, Dr. Paul Phillips Cooke and Rose Clifford Cooke, both of Washington; a brother, Paul Clifford Cooke of Oakton; and two sisters, Anne E. Cooke of Washington and Katherine M. Cooke of New York. MAXINE G. AARONS Advocate
Maxine G. Aarons, 71, an advocate for mentally disabled people, died of cancer Nov. 20 at the Sunrise Assisted Living facility in Alexandria.
Mrs. Aarons, who lived in Falls Church, was born in Portsmouth, Va. She graduated from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Va.
In the late 1940s, she was a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Kate Waller Barrett Elementary School in Arlington. She also had taught at the religious school of the Arlington Fairfax Jewish Congregation, where she was a member of the Sisterhood and Hadassah.
As an advocate for persons with mental disabilities, she worked with Arc of Northern Virginia, and she helped establish Parents and Associates of the Institutionalized Retarded of Virginia. She assisted the Northern Virginia Training Center in the orientation of employees.
Mrs. Aarons had been an usher at the concert hall and opera house of the Kennedy Center.
Survivors include her husband of 46 years, LeRoy A. Aarons of Falls Church; two sons, Richard Aarons of Fairfax and Dr. Mark G. Aarons of Southern Pines, N.C.; a sister and a brother in Portsmouth; and a granddaughter. NANCY WILSON ANDERSON Environmentalist
Nancy Wilson Anderson, 75, an Arlington native who founded a conservationist network in New England and helped establish a similar organization for east African nations, died of cancer Nov. 11 at her home in Falmouth, Maine.
Mrs. Anderson was a graduate of Washington-Lee High School and George Washington University. She served in the Navy during World War II and lived in the Washington area off and on until 1960.
She began her environmental work in Massachusetts, where she worked for wetlands protection and land acquisition. She founded the New England Environmental Network in 1979, organized international environmental conferences and later served as chairman of a regional committee of a World Conservation Union commission.
Her honors included a Conservation Hero Award of the National Park Service.
Survivors include her husband, retired Marine Corps Col. John A. Anderson of Falmouth; two children, Nancy C. Anderson of Falmouth and John A. Anderson Jr. of Marcola, Ore.; a brother, Otis D. Wilson of Arlington; and three grandchildren.