Founder of huge defense contractor SAIC dies

AP News
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Posted: Dec 26, 2014 6:01 PM

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (AP) — J. Robert Beyster, a scientist-turned-entrepreneur who founded a small technology firm called Science Applications International Corp. and built it into one of the largest, most influential defense contractors in the country, has died at age 90.

Beyster died Monday of natural causes at his San Diego home, according to a statement from his family.

The entrepreneur, who held a doctorate in physics from the University of Michigan, worked for Los Alamos National Laboratory, Westinghouse and San Diego-based General Atomics before deciding to form his own company in 1969.

Beyster began SAIC as an employee-owned business, which he said provided him the means to recruit the most talented and motivated employees.

"Someone who is involved with the company should own a piece of it," he once said. "People involved in the company should share in its success."

He decided to form the company, he said, after concluding the U.S. government was not getting its money's worth from other defense contractors. "Providing quality work on national security problems at a fair price was the major motivation behind the founding of SAIC," Beyster said.

The company's first contract was to analyze nuclear weapons.

Today, SAIC says on its website, it is a leader in designing, developing and sustaining efforts "that empower diplomatic missions, support warfighter requirements and advance exploration from the ocean floor to outer space."

When the company was split into two businesses in 2013, it had $11 billion in annual revenues and 44,000 employees.

The Virginia-based business that retains the SAIC name is currently a $4 billion enterprise with about 13,000 employees.

SAIC became publicly traded in 2006, two years after Beyster's retirement. It was a move he disagreed with, as he did the move to split it into two companies last year.

Born in Detroit, Michigan., in 1924, John Robert Beyster served in the Navy during World War II before going on to earn degrees from the University of Michigan.

He was the author of numerous papers, as well as the book "The SAIC Solution: How We Built an $8 Billion Employee-Owned Technology Company."

He also created the Foundation for Enterprise Development, a private nonprofit devoted to advancing entrepreneurship and science and technology innovation through broad-based ownership.

Survivors include his wife, Betty; daughter, Mary Ann; and sons James and Mark.