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Silicon Valley mourns its ‘coach,’ former Intuit CEO Bill Campbell

Just a month after former Intel CEO and chairman Andy Grove died, Silicon Valley has lost another legend. Bill Campbell, a former CEO and chairman of Intuit and a longtime Apple board member, has died, according to a family statement reported by Bloomberg.

Yet Campbell, better known simply as "Coach" by venture capitalists, tech executives and investors throughout the industry, will be better remembered for the mentoring, advice and eminence grise role he played to some of tech's biggest names, including Google's Eric Schmidt, Apple's Steve Jobs and Amazon's Jeff Bezos (who also owns The Washington Post).

Campbell, who indeed was a real coach, leading the Columbia University football team in the 1970s (albeit with a losing record), served as CEO of the financial software firm in the mid 1990s. He was the company's chairman from 1998 until January of this year, when he became chairman emeritus. Campbell was also chairman of the board of trustees at Columbia University from 2005 until 2014. Earlier in his career, he had worked at Kodak and Apple, where he worked as a marketing executive.

The news prompted condolences and remembrances from many notable names in the tech industry. Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt called Campbell "instrumental as a mentor" in a tweet Monday. Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo tweeted that Campbell "called me on my last day at Twitter & had both the funniest & most insightful comments." John Doerr, chair of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, called him "our SuperCoach – colorful confidante and mentor for leaders and whole teams."

In a statement, Intuit chairman and CEO Brad Smith said "it's been an honor and a privilege to have benefited from Bill's broad experience, wise judgment and unwavering support through the year." And Apple said that Campbell "believed in Apple when few people did and his contributions to our company, through good times and bad, cannot be overstated. We will miss his wisdom, his friendship, his humor and his love for life."

Campbell was lauded by Jobs for being a "deeply human" adviser; he worked with Google's Schmidt and co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to help the leadership trio make decisions together. Befitting his coach's persona, Campbell was known as a salty-mouthed sage with a corner named after him at a Palo Alto, Calif., pub he co-owned; he's been described as generous with his time and lacking an ego in an industry filled with them. As an adviser, Campbell both helped companies focus on fundamentals (running staff meetings, managing employee performance) as well as played the role of CEO whisperer (he and Jobs were known to often take walks on the weekends).

Campbell did not write code, but that made him no less of an influence on many giants of the tech world, advising companies that were making the leap from their startup days. In a 2008 profile -- the first in a major business publication -- Fortune's Jennifer Reingold wrote that Campbell was careful not to take credit for his work, even while industry leaders spoke of Campbell "as if he's some kind of profane cosmic mash-up of Oprah, Yoda and Joe Paterno."

Eight years later, the outpouring of remembrances at his death are filled with similar praise. Venture capitalist Ben Horowitz, who has written and spoken about the impact Intel's Grove had on him, as well as become something of a Silicon Valley consigliere himself, wrote Monday about the role Campbell played in his life -- both when he was running a software company and in his personal life, when he learned his oldest child had decided to change his gender.

"I didn’t call him because he would have the answer to some impossible question," Horowitz wrote. "I called him, because he would understand what I was feeling 100%."

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