Estimated net worth: $1.7 billion
In 1985, Irwin Jacobs co-founded Qualcomm Inc., the San Diego-based wireless technology company. Now, 73, the long-time La Jolla resident is the company’s board chairman. He served as its CEO until July 2005, when son, Paul, took the reins as the company’s chief executive. Qualcomm has an estimated 9,500 employees and generated $7.2 billion in revenue for fiscal 2006, ending Sept. 24. Qualcomm sells advanced voice and data wireless hardware and earns licensing fees from users of its cellular telephone technology, used by one-fourth of the global market. Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel Corp. are U.S. users while Asia markets are also strong.
Jacobs is a native of New Bedford, Mass. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Cornell University and a master’s and doctorate in the same subject from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He taught electrical engineering at MIT from 1959 to 1966 and served as professor of computer science and engineering at UC San Diego. Qualcomm was started after Jacobs and partners sold a business called Linkabit in 1980. Jacobs reportedly netted $25 million from the deal.
Jacobs and his wife, Joan, are known for their philanthropy. In November, the Jacobs donated $1 million to local National Public Radio station KPBS-FM. The multi-year gift is designed to strengthen the station’s local journalism and news collaboration with NPR. The Jacobs have donated funds to build studios for KPBS and have supported the station for decades.
And this year they reportedly donated $30 million to establish the Irwin and Joan Jacobs Graduate School, at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The Jacobs donated an additional $1 million recently to the San Diego Natural History Museum to support a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition opening June 2007.
Two years ago, Business Week tallied the Jacobs’ philanthropy at $450 million, or 22nd most generous in the country. They’ve given $120 million to the San Diego Symphony and $110 million to UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering.
, Mark Larson