Thomas V. Jones, the maverick chief executive who grew Northrop Corp. into an aerospace giant over his 30 years at the helm, died Tuesday of pulmonary fibrosis. He was 93.
Jones, who got his start as an aerospace engineer, had a reputation as a bold risk-taker, championing a variety of aircraft including the B-2 Stealth bomber.
Jones retired in 1990 after nearly 50 years with the company. Four years later, Northrop bought competitor Grumman Aerospace Corp. and was renamed Northrop Grumman Corp. Northrop Grumman moved its corporate headquarters from Century City to West Falls Church, Va. in 2010.
At the time he retired, Northrop was under indictment by the federal government for falsifying testing of a nuclear armed cruise missile’s guidance system. Jones himself was fined for making illegal contribution to President Nixon's re-election campaign in the 1970s.
After leaving Northrop, Jones focused on his personal passions for rare cigars and fine wine, developing the Moraga Vineyard next to his home in Bel-Air. Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive News Corp., bought the estate last year.
In a 2008 profile in the Business Journal, the then 88-year-old Jones declared that his daily walks through his vineyard weren’t just for exercise. "There's an old saying in France: 'The quality of the wine is proportional to the number of steps the owner takes in the vineyard each day,'" he said.
Born and raised in Pomona, Jones attended Stanford University, where he got a degree in aeronautical engineering. During his summer vacation in 1941 before the United States entered World War II Jones worked at the Douglas Aircraft Co. plant in El Segundo designing dive bombers. When he finished school, he went back to work for Douglas for the rest of the war.
He later worked at Rand Corp. and wrote a study for the Air Force on the costs of air warfare. In 1953, he was recruited as assistant to the chief engineer at Northrop, and rose through the ranks to chief executive.
He is survived by a son, Peter Thomas Jones; a daughter, Ruth Marilyn Jones; and two grandchildren. His wife, Ruth, died last year. Funeral arrangement have not been announced.