Business

Tektronix Bought Out By East Coast Conglomerate

OPB | Oct. 15, 2007 9:55 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:18 a.m. | Bend, OR

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By Ethan Lindsey

Oregon's tech sector today is watching one of its founding members move away.

Tektronix is the grandfather of the so-called Silicon Forest and is the largest tech company based and founded in the state.

Tuesday the company announced it was being bought by a Washington D.C.-based tech conglomerate. Ethan Lindsey reports.


Tektronix, quite simply, created the Portland technology sector.

Founded in 1946, the electronic equipment maker employs 4500 people, mostly in its Beaverton headquarters.

Only Intel's Oregon operations can rival the company in its importance to the region.

Tektronix CEO Richard Wills announced that Washington-based Danaher will buy Tektronix for $2.8 billion.

Richard Wills: “We believe that this acquisition will be a catalyst to accelerate Tektronix's position as a very good company to an even better company. And a combined commitment to expanding our global reach, particularly in India and China.”

Danaher is a much larger company.

It reported sales of $9.6 billion last year and is best known as the maker of Sears-branded Craftsman tools. But Danaher also owns a number of smaller companies, including one of Tektronix's biggest competitors. Danaher says it will fold those two operations together.

Gerry Langeler is a former Tektronix employee and now runs OVP Venture Partners, funding regional startups.

Gerry Langeler: “Tektronix to Oregon is a smaller version of what Microsoft is to Seattle. It was the formation company, the mother lode of technology businesses that essentially got things going here.”

And like Microsoft's legacy in Washington, former employees say Tektronix built the infrastructure and laid the groundwork for many local startups and the region's high-tech energy.

Gerry Langeler: “I think its bittersweet. My first reaction was that it was sad. I hate to see the Tektronix name go off the door, as I assume it will. And it's such a piece of the fabric of this community.”

That fabric includes Tektronix money that has filtered down in  charitable form to schools, the arts, and many other organizations around the state.

Langeler says the death earlier this year of Jean Vollum, the widow of Tektronix cofounder Howard Vollum, probably didn't have much to do with the buyout.

But without her presence and public philanthropy, there may be less outcry about the deal.

Gerry Langeler: “Certainly anytime there is a change especially a company that is such an icon in the region, you look for some ripple effects and we'll only be able to see that in the next couple years.”

Neither Danaher nor Tektronix would comment directly on whether the deal will result in any job cuts. Danaher says it will keep a “large” company presence in Beaverton.

Langeler says the ripple effects of the deal may well  include many skilled engineers leaving Tektronix, but sticking around to form new startups in the state.

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