With its profits sagging and a growing thicket of legal and regulatory disputes, Qualcomm has gone from a lion of the cellphone industry to a plum takeover target.
SAN DIEGO — For corporate success, no story in San Diego is as good as the story of Qualcomm. The company was founded in a living room and became the world’s largest maker of smartphone chips, one of the area’s largest employers and its chief corporate benefactor.
Qualcomm sponsors robotics classes for schoolchildren, subsidizes museum memberships for young adults and raises money for the local police. Irwin Jacobs, a founder of the company and its original chief executive, is a prolific philanthropist whose name is on the engineering school and the medical center of the University of California, San Diego, along with a food bank, a music center, a contemporary art museum and a playhouse.
People here are so accustomed to everything that comes with being Qualcomm’s home that they’re having a hard time imagining the city without that distinction. But suddenly that’s the prospect they are confronting.
With its profits sagging and a growing thicket of legal and regulatory disputes, Qualcomm has gone from a lion of the cellphone industry to a plum takeover target. Last fall, Broadcom, a rival chip maker, offered to buy the company in a $105 billion deal that would be the largest technology buyout in history. After Qualcomm’s board rejected the bid, Broadcom raised the price to a “last and best offer” of $121 billion, which the board also rejected.
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“As a businessperson in San Diego, if you’re not following this you’re living in a cave,” said Jason Hughes, chief executive of Hughes Marino, a commercial real- estate brokerage.
Hughes is something of a microstudy in how deeply Qualcomm has embedded itself into the region. In a recent interview at his downtown office, he ticked off…