Tellabs CEO Rob Pullen succumbs to cancer

Tellabs(s tlab) CEO Rob Pullen died Monday morning of colon cancer, succumbing to the disease after several months of chemotherapy and a recent surgery. Pullen, who was 50, was one of the major figures of the U.S. telecom industry, leading Tellabs for the last four years and serving as chairman emeritus and executive board member for the Telecommunications Industry Association.

Pullen started his career at Tellabs in 1985 straight out of college as a rank-and-file engineer, climbing all the way to the top of the company hierarchy. He took over as CEO in 2008 from Krish Prabhu and was responsible for Tellabs’ transformation from a company focused on older telephony technologies to one specializing in new optical routing and mobile backhaul products.

Under Pullen’s leadership, Tellabs expanded beyond its core North American market and into developing markets in Latin America and Asia. Those new markets now account for half of Tellabs revenues, according to the company.

Here is the statement Tellabs Chairman Michael Brick issued this morning:

Dear Stockholders, Customers, Employees and Friends,

It is my sad duty to inform you that Tellabs CEO Rob Pullen has lost his battle with cancer. He passed away today.

We extend our sympathies to Rob’s wife Dawn, his children Brittany and Brendan, and his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

On a personal note, I was honored to have worked side by side with Rob at Tellabs for 30 years. No words can describe the grief I feel right now.

Pullen notified shareholders he had been diagnosed with cancer in April, but he stated he was “determined to fight it and beat it.” He underwent regular chemotherapy sessions, but he didn’t give up his duties as Tellabs CEO. Last week, the company said he underwent surgery, but was recovering in stable condition. Pullen, however, lost the battle with cancer five days later.

Dan Kelly, Tellabs EVP of global products, was appointed temporary CEO when Pullen was hospitalized and will remain acting CEO of the company.

“The [information and communications technology] industry has lost a great innovator with the passing of Rob Pullen,” TIA President Grant Seiffert said in a statement. “Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family during this difficult time. Rob’s leadership and relentless commitment to progress and innovation has helped make the ICT industry what it is today — and will forever influence what it will become.”