33-Yr. Board Member Who Helped Build St. Jude Dies at 67
Thomas Garrett, III—who has steered St. Jude Medical, Inc., since its earliest years—died Sunday at the age of 67 after a long battle with multiple myeloma.
A lawyer by training, Garrett helped take St. Jude public in 1977—a year after it was founded. He then joined the Little Canada-based company’s board of directors in 1979 and watched it grow from start-up to Fortune 500 status during his unusually long tenure.
During his 33-year tenure, he advised the medical device company through a number of transitions, including the appointment of all six CEOs, and helped it navigate legal matters.
“For the past three decades, Tom has embodied the profound integrity and commitment to excellence that defines our industry,” St. Jude CEO Daniel Starks said in a prepared statement. “We thank him for the many contributions he has made to St. Jude Medical. He will be missed.”
According to the Pioneer Press, Garrett fought to keep St. Jude independent in the 1980s amid a major legal battle with Texas company CarboMedics, Inc., the sole supplier of key components for St. Jude’s only product. CarboMedics sued St. Jude and reportedly stopped shipping parts to the company, and St. Jude countersued. The battle could have posed lethal for St. Jude, which was still a relatively young company. Garrett reportedly rejected the possibility of resolving the dispute by selling St. Jude to CarboMedics and instead insisted that the company fight the lawsuit. Eventually, a federal judge granted St. Jude an injunction that forced CarboMedics to resume shipping parts—which gave the St. Jude room to settle the suit and move forward as an independent company.
Garrett was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, in 2003—but he didn’t let the disease end his involvement with St. Jude. According to his obituary in the Star Tribune, “He was extremely proud of the company and totally devoted to it, even attending meetings by phone while he was in the hospital.”
Garrett was born in 1945 to a prominent St. Paul family. His mother was Martha Elizabeth Seeger, a member of the family that founded Seeger Refrigeration Company in 1902 on St. Paul’s East Side. After earning both an undergraduate degree and a law degree from the University of Minnesota, he set out to practice securities law and took a job with Minneapolis-based law firm Lindquist & Vennum, PLLP, where he served as its managing partner from 1993 to 1995. From 1996 through 2010, Garrett was self-employed as a business consultant.
St. Jude wasn’t the only company for which Garrett served as a director. He was also on the board of Chaska-based medical device company Lifecore Biomedical from 1996 to 2008.
A St. Jude spokeswoman said Thursday that the company has not yet identified the individual who will succeed Garrett on its board.