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Frank Lanza, the

L-3 Communications

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chief executive who led the company since its spinoff from


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10 years ago, died suddenly on Tuesday.

According to a company release, the 74-year-old Lanza had been recovering "satisfactorily" from unspecified surgery. "His death was sudden and unexpected," the company said.

After serving as an executive with Loral and Lockheed, Lanza helped mastermind L-3's formation in 1997 and was chief executive of the defense contractor for its entire existence as a separate company. He was also a popular media presence, serving as a frequent business commentator on


, among other outlets.

"There is no question that Frank Lanza has been one of the most visionary business leaders in the defense industry," said Robert Millard, L-3's lead director. "Frank worked to build Loral into a leading defense firm. Frank went on to co-found L-3, the fastest-growing high technology defense company in the world by acquiring a number of small and large businesses that he transformed into leaders in their niche markets."

L-3's board will meet Wednesday.