March 18, 2010 / 4:50 PM / 10 years ago

Apple director Jerry York dies at 71

DETROIT (Reuters) - Jerry York, a long-time adviser to billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian and executive whose career spanned the auto and technology industries, has died, Apple Inc said on Thursday.

Harwinton Capital Chairman, President and CEO Jerry York talks with Reuters reporters during the Reuters Autos Summit in Detroit, Michigan November 2, 2009. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

York, who sat on Apple’s board, once worked as chief financial officer at International Business Machines Corp and Chrysler, and served on the board of General Motors.

The cause of death was not immediately available. York, 71, was hospitalized earlier this week near his home in suburban Detroit after collapsing.

Known as a straight-talking executive, York was a critic of GM during his board tenure from February to October 2006, advocating brand cuts that the automaker opposed but ended up executing in a U.S. government-controlled bankruptcy last year.

Speaking at the Reuters Auto Summit in Detroit in November, he called talk of a GM initial public offering in 2010 the “dumbest thing in the world,” and said Chrysler has a “50-50 chance” of survival under the new leadership of Fiat.

“Jerry York has been one of the most influential voices in the auto industry over the last 30 years,” said Mike Jackson, chief executive of AutoNation. “Today many of the changes he called for are taking place and his vision is becoming reality.”

York joined Apple’s board of directors as Steve Jobs returned to lead the technology giant following more than a decade away from the company, which he co-founded.

“Jerry joined Apple’s Board in 1997 when most doubted the company’s future,” said Jobs, Apple’s CEO.

“He has been a pillar of financial and business expertise and insight on our board for over a dozen years,” he said.

“It’s been a privilege to know and work with Jerry, and I’m going to miss him a lot.”

York also served as president and chief executive of Harwinton Capital. He was reelected to Apple’s board just a few weeks ago at the company’s annual meeting, along with the company’s six other directors.

It was not immediately clear if or when Apple planned to name another director nominee.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1938, York graduated from the United States Military Academy and received a Master of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan.

He was involved in Kerkorian’s failed bid for Chrysler in 2007 as well as the billionaire’s investments in GM and Ford Motor Co.

York resigned from GM’s board following a fight with the automaker’s executives after they blocked his proposed alliance with French-Japanese automaker Renault-Nissan.

Reporting by Soyoung Kim in Detroit; Additional reporting by Gabriel Madway in San Francisco; Editing by Robert MacMillan and Richard Chang and Ted Kerr

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