Sugar, Ronald D. 1948–
Ronald D. Sugar
President, chief executive officer, and chairman, Northrop Grumman Corporation
Family: Son of a hair-salon owner (name unknown); married Valerie (maiden name unknown); children: two.
Career: Aerospace Corp., 1971–?, design engineer; TRW, 1981–1983, engineer; 1983–1987, chief engineer; 1987–1992, general manager of Space Communications; 1992–1994, vice president of strategic business development; 1994–1996, CFO; 1996–1998, general manager of Automotive Electronics; 1999–2000, COO of Aerospace and Information Systems and president; Litton Industries, 2000–2001, president and COO; Northrop Grumman Corporation, 2001–2003, president and COO; 2003–, president, CEO, and chairman.
Awards: Engineering Alumnus of the Year, University of California, Los Angeles, 1996; Daniel Epstein Engineering Management Award, University of Southern California, 2003; Foundation Award, U.S. Marine Corps, 2003.
Address: Northrop Grumman Corporation, 1840 Century Park East, Los Angeles, California 90067; http://www.northgrum.com.
■ A banker described Ronald D. Sugar, the CEO of Northrop Grumman Corporation, as "the only PhD I know with extraordinary common sense" (Wall Street Journal, September 21, 2001). Sugar embodied the spirit of social mobility. When he was six, his family drove from Toronto, Canada, to Los Angeles where his father intended to open a hair salon. Growing up in South Central Los Angeles was no easier in the 1960s than it was at the end of the 20th century; nevertheless, Sugar succeeded in making the rare and difficult climb from the poverty-riddled neighborhood of his childhood to Westwood, the upscale neighborhood where he attended college.
Sugar studied electrical engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, earning a bachelor's degree and graduating summa cum laude and first in his engineering class in 1968. He obtained a master's degree the following year and a doctorate in 1971. He then worked for Aerospace Corporation, Hughes Aircraft Company, and Argosystems before joining TRW in 1981 as director of advanced research and development programs. During this period and throughout his career at TRW, Sugar attended several executive education programs to hone his management skills, completing courses at Harvard, Stanford, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
FROM PROGRAM ENGINEER TO COO
Sugar spoke nostalgically of his time as a program engineer. In a speech to an Air Force Association (AFA) national symposium, as quoted by John A. Tirpak in Air Force magazine, he said, "In industry a program manager is a high-stress, high-risk, high-reward job, and those who are successful often go on to general management" (January 2003). This statement perfectly described Sugar's career path at TRW, where he rose to chief engineer on the Milstar Satellite payload program from 1983 to 1987, general manager of Space Communications from 1987 to 1992, vice president of strategic business development in the space and defense sector from 1992 to 1994, and to CFO from 1994 to 1996. Sugar then transferred to TRW's other main operating division, Automotive Electronics, serving as general manager until 1998; after several months as executive vice president for special projects, Sugar was named president of TRW and COO of TRW Aerospace and Information Systems in 1999.
RISING TO THE TOP AT LITTON, THEN NORTHROP GRUMMAN
The payoff for Sugar's two decades of contributions to TRW was the opportunity to become president and COO of Litton Industries, a position he retained when Litton was acquired by Northrop Grumman in 2001. When Kent Kresa, the chief executive officer of Northrop Grumman, retired in 2003, Sugar stepped into his position.
Sugar's main challenge in his first years would be to oversee the integration of Northrop Grumman's many recent acquisitions: a total of 14 companies had been acquired in a three-year span. He noted that part of his job was getting these separate entities to work together and produce a stronger result than they would have if they worked separately. He declared that realigning the components of a modern conglomerate took strong leadership and a clear sense of the goals he was trying to reach.
Sugar reshuffled a number of Northrop Grumman's seven operating divisions, particularly Information Technology and Mission Systems. His goal in undertaking these restructuring efforts was to ensure that Northrop Grumman did not fall victim to the complacency and slipshod efforts that had plagued the defense industry in the early 2000s. As Sugar stated in his speech to the AFA, "The low bid is what I sometimes call the original sin. Sometimes corners are cut because while we do need to find ways to do things faster, better, and cheaper, often we are able to pick only one or two of these three and not get all three right" (January 2003).
COMPANY MAN AND PUBLIC MAN
Sugar took readily to his public role and was active within and without the corporate walls. He was a participant in defense-related conferences, with titles ranging from "The Role of Aerospace Power in U.S. National Security" to "Competing for Missile Defense Solutions." He made frequent appearances with organizations such as the National Press Club and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Sugar was named by President Clinton to the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee in 2000 and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2004. He served as a governor of the Aerospace Industries Association and as a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and the National Defense Industrial Association. His wider interests were represented by his directorship of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and by his trusteeship with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. In 1996 UCLA named Sugar the Engineering Alumnus of the Year.
Sugar made a reputation for himself within the aerospace industry as a man equally at ease with bankers and engineers. His combination of technical and financial experience allowed him to oversee significant cost reductions at the Newport News Shipbuilding division, which he was familiar with from his time at the helm of Litton Industries; he was instrumental in resolving construction delays on the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. He also promoted work on a large-aircraft infrared countermeasures program designed to protect commercial aircraft from missile attacks. His rare fusion of engineering expertise and management skill made him one of America's most effective corporate leaders.
See also entry on Northrop Grumman Corporation in International Directory of Company Histories.
sources for further information
"Northrop Grumman CEO-Elect Ron Sugar" Defense Daily, February 21, 2003.
"Northrop Grumman Corporation: Sugar of Litton Unit Is Named President, on Way to Top Spot," Wall Street Journal, September 21, 2001.
Sellers, Patricia, "The Sweetest Revenge," Fortune, September 2, 2002, p. 113.
Tirpak, John A., "Challenges Ahead for Military Space," Air Force 86, no. 1 (January 2003), p. 22.
—Hartley S. Spatt