Electronic Design
Image courtesy of Analog Devices

(Image courtesy of Analog Devices).

Robert Swanson, Linear Technology's Co-Founder, to Join Analog Devices Board

The announcement follows Linear Technology's $14.8 billion sale to Analog Devices last July. The deal is scheduled to close in the second quarter, which roughly lasts from February to May.

From left, Linear Technology chief executive officer Lothar Maier, co-founder and executive chairman Robert Swanson, and co-founder and chief technology officer Robert Dobkin, in 2011. (Image courtesy of Linear Technology).

Analog Devices plans to elect Robert Swanson, the co-founder, former chief executive officer, and current chairman of Linear Technology, to its board of directors. The move will come later this year, the company said in a statement.

The announcement comes as Analog Devices sorts out the final details of its $14.8 deal to buy Linear Technology, one of its rivals in the field of analog and mixed-signal chips. Analog Devices framed last year's deal as a significant push into the markets for cars, factory equipment, and cellular infrastructure. 

The move begins to answer questions about the future of Linear Technology’s executives following the deal. But it is still unclear how the acquisition might affect the almost 14,000 workers that Linear Technology and Analog Devices employ. Both companies also sell many overlapping products in power management, amplifiers, interfaces, and data converters.

Swanson founded Linear Technology in 1981 along with Robert Widlar and Robert Dobkin, the company’s former vice president of engineering and its current chief technology officer. He helped turn it into one of Silicon Valley’s most profitable chipmakers and something of an apprentice program for budding analog engineers.

In what chief executive Lothiar Meyer called the company's last quarterly report last week, Linear Technology reported revenues of $375.8 million, up from $347.1 million the year before. Profits were $124 million, up from $115.1 million last year, showing that its shift into industrial and automotive chips has paid off in recent years.

Last year, after ending its pursuit of Maxim Integrated, Analog Devices started negotiating a deal with Linear Technology’s board of directors, who shopped around for other buyers in the industry. According to a federal filing, an unnamed company made an offer of $54 per share or around $13.3 billion before leaving Analog Devices as the only company will to pay more.

Linear Technology agreed to sell itself to Analog Devices in a cash-and-stock deal signed last July. Swanson said that he was hopeful that the company's engineering-driven culture would survive under new management. Linear Technology has built a reputation for carving out time every week to hear engineers pitch new designs and expecting them to interact directly with customers.

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But the deal surprised many analog engineers, in part because of Swanson's well-known skepticism toward acquisitions. Linear Technology has only made one acquisition in its history, buying a wireless sensor networking firm called Dust Networks in 2011. But the offer from Analog Devices was too high for executives to turn down, Swanson said.

What's still unknown is the future of Robert Dobkin, Linear Technology's C.T.O., following the deal. Holding more than 100 patents in the field of analog circuits, he also serves as a technical advisor at several chip start-ups, including Spectra7 Microsystems and HMicro.

A spokeswoman for Analog Devices said the company is “still determining the roles of Linear Technology’s executives upon completion of our acquisition." A spokesman for Linear Technology said that there "have been no announcements regarding Mr. Dobkin's role following the merger."

Analog Devices also intends to elect Mark Little, GE’s former chief technology officer and senior vice president at GE Global Research, to its board. The new members will replace Rich Beyer, the former chief executive of Freescale Semiconductor, and John Hodgson, the former chief marketing and sales officer for DuPont. 

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